Tag Archives: Trust

Towards a Transparency Culture in the Food Chain

This article is written by John G. Keogh.

Conventional wisdom suggests that transparency is an irrefutable practice in public and private sector governance (1). In fact, transparency is viewed as foundational for the efficient functioning of markets and provides a bedrock layer for trust to function as a ‘social lubricant’ by reducing information asymmetry (2). Although there is a complex bidirectional relationship between transparency and trust, increased transparency increases trust, according to a growing number of empirical findings and industry research.

“Trust is in Crisis” Edelman, 2017 Trust Barometer

The recurring exposures of deceptive practices, ethical lapses as well as opportunistic and immoral behaviour by individuals, governments, media, NGO’s and businesses has catapulted transparency into global prominence especially in the food industry.

No doubt you would concur that we have ideological and biased reporting, allegations of ‘paid-for’ scientific publications, deceptive practices, fake news and then there is the viral nature of social media to spread the falsehoods.

With all this going on in the background, sceptical consumers continue to raise their concerns about major social issues related to sustainability of natural resources and habitat destruction of endangered species. A key question raised often is whether the 3rd party certifiers are independent and unbiased, whether their results are peer-reviewed and can be trusted. And more importantly, can they be trusted when they rely on the firms they audit for revenue?

Research by Graham Bullock (2015) on 245 eco-labels and sustainability schemes in the USA found only 2 firms met criteria of being independent, had qualified staff (PhD level experts) and their results were peer-reviewed. He further noted that 56% of Americans do not trust companies’ green claims. Bullock’s insightful research was based on the findings from Starobin and Weinthal (2010) who found competency issues with 3rd party certifiers for Kosher labels.

Furthermore, consumers have legitimate concerns spanning from fair trade to the immoral acts of human slavery and forced child labour in our food chains. On top of concerns for animal welfare and a growing fear of antibiotic resistance, consumers are suffering from a lack of consensus among the public health agencies, NGO’s and the food business operators on the long-term health and safety of common foods. Again, whom can they trust?

do you remember the 2015 ‘processed meat causes cancer’ from the WHO? It seemed well grounded in scientific evidence but after significant push-back from industry, there was consumer confusion followed by a partial retraction by WHO a few days later. Who can the consumer trust to provide transparent, and trusted information? Unbiased reporting and evidence-based recommendations? Was the retraction the result of an industry lobby to protect revenues or grounded in sound science?

When transparency is lacking, so is trust!

In my view, the problem today is a lack of a transparency culture throughout the food ecosystem. But my question is; who is hiding what and why are they doing it? Following on from that, it is no wonder (at least to me) that Edelman argues that trust is in crisis. The challenges we are now faced with is ‘whom’ do we trust, and ‘what information’ can we trust? And my question is, therefore ‘can a transparency culture help’? I think it can.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines transparency as the “quality or state of being transparent”. And ‘transparent’ is defined as “having the property of transmitting light….” and “free from pretense or deceit”, “easily detected or seen through”, “readily understood,” “characterized by visibility or accessibility of information especially concerning business practices”

What is a Transparency culture?

Much like a food safety culture which is brilliantly outlined in several books by Frank Yiannas, VP of Food Safety at Wal-Mart, in my view, a transparency culture is essentially about human behaviour. Regardless of laws, regulations, standards and organizational SOP’s, a transparency centric culture means doing the right thing when nobody is looking. And when they are looking, to accept responsibility and accountability.

A transparency culture should extend throughout the organizational ecosystem and is critically important to the boundary spanning employees who engage in direct communication and business transactions with stakeholders. A transparency culture is also about honest, forthright, clear and understandable communications, not hiding details in the fine print or providing scientific or technical language that consumers cannot normally decipher.

An example of a Transparency Culture fail

A transparency culture in the food chain is not only about the food itself but also related to business practices which impact consumers negatively. In the past week, Canada’s premier retailer, Loblaw received immunity from prosecution as the whistleblower on more than a decade of industry practices of collusion and price-fixing for bread. This ethical and immoral lapse was not just one person but a whole supply chain colluding to cheat consumers and break Canadian anti-trust laws. Will a Blockchain fix this? Nope.

This illegal practice will be costly for Loblaw and others, and not just financially. It will take time for consumer trust to bounce back. Loblaw is booking a CDN$ 150 million charge this quarter to appease angry consumers with a 25-dollar ‘mea-culpa’ voucher. Unethical behaviour doesn’t pay and will get exposed eventually.

 ‘‘Transparency is the deliberate attempt to make available all legally releasable information—whether positive or negative in nature—in a manner that is accurate, timely, balanced, and unequivocal, for the purpose of enhancing the reasoning ability of publics and holding organizations accountable for their actions, policies, and practices” Rawlings (2009)

How do we fix this?

The entire food ecosystem needs a rethink on transparency as an enabler of consumer trust. From farm to retail we should consider how to put into practice a program, or programs to ensure ‘transparency as a culture’ is embedded in all aspects of the food chain.

A lofty goal right? Why am I proposing this? well, no government or enforcement agency can control or govern all aspects of our complex society. Therefore, voluntary measures such as those embedded into a corporate social responsibility (CSR) program becomes an alternative, non-state mechanism to address these societal issues and concerns broadly (5). And specifically, issues such as food safety, food security, food fraud and price fixing – the latter being one of those issues where consumers, regulators and insiders alike probably shake their heads in dismay thinking that was a thing of the past.

Embarking on a CSR journey focused on implementing a transparency culture is one way for an organization to publically state, ‘we are taking responsibility’ and ‘we are accountable’ for addressing these big-hairy societal issues and also the specific issues of food safety, fraud and deceptive practices. By the way, transparency is viewed in the discourse as fundamental to the implementation of successful CSR, which, if not managed ethically, becomes just another tool for an organization to peddle untruths such as greenwashing (fake sustainability claims).

Finally, in a transparency culture, whistleblowing at all levels should be encouraged to continually improve processes by shining a light in the opaque areas of the food chain where unethical, immoral, deceitful and illegal behaviours are most rampant. This is no doubt a marathon, and the food industry is likely still at the start line without a race plan.

Thanks for reading.

Cheers.

About the Author:

John G. Keogh is a sought-after speaker, advisor and researcher. Operating at the intersection of the Public + Private sectors globally, he provides confidential advisory, research & interventions across policy, operations, strategy and technology.

John holds a PG Dip. and an MBA in General Mgmt. He has an MSc (distinction) in Business and Management Research into Supply Chain Transparency and Consumer Trust. He is currently a part-time, associate researcher at Henley Business School, undertaking doctoral (DBA) research into food chain transparency and consumer trust. John plans to publish an ebook “Food Chain Transparency – what executives need to know” in 2018.

Sources:

(1) Welch et al., (2006), (2) Berg (2004). (3) Rawlins, (2008), (4) Penders et al., (2017), (5) Dubbink et al., (2008), plus in-text references.

 

Original posted here:

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/towards-transparency-culture-food-chain-john-g-keogh/

Consumers find transparency in food important

Transparency has been one of the biggest buzzwords in the food business. It has driven product reformulations, moved producers to utilize more sustainable practices. It is now no more an option, it’s a requirement. The survey by Response Media underscores its importance as producers, manufacturers and retailers move forward with greater transparency of their products. The survey was carried out Q1 this year with 500 US respondents and mixed gender demographics.

The findings

Consumers place a significant value of importance on the source of ingredients; the manufacturing, handling, and shipping of the product; and the sustainability, charitable, and labor policies of a brand.

Consumers primarily want it before and during purchase. So an easy-to-use QR code or NFC tag, combined with the consumers smartphone could do the trick.

So their recommendation is that companies that can deliver content during all stages will secure a stronger level of trust and differentiate themselves from competition.

So, brands must consciously develop and communicate meaningful transparency content to consumers when and where they want it. This transparency have to be founded on a trusted process, or else it is just airy-fairy. This could be a supply chain blockchain tech and RFID process, to ensure the greater transparency and traceability. So there is no need to wait, the first that brings transparency to the food we eat, is going to have a great advantage when people have to chose between products in the supermarket.

© 2018 Kristoffer Just Petersen

References

http://www.fooddive.com/news/grocery–study-nearly-all-consumers-find-transparency-in-food-and-beverage-important/446999/?mc_cid=a1edfc77cc&mc_eid=35fb007d92

Response Media – 2017 Transparency Study

Interview – Tom Mueller – Author of Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil

Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO). It might not be a food product that you buy everyday, but when you buy it, it is quite expensive so you want to “the real deal”. But, far from every EVOO product on the shelf at the supermarket is actually a EVOO. Meaning, that some are of lesser quality (low-grade oils), not from the country of labelling (olives from greece, but the label says Italy) and so forth.

I used EVOO as an example in my thesis on how a new technology, blockchain, could reestablish trust, transparency and traceability in the supply chain of EVOO. And that is highly needed, especially if you (if your Danish), saw Kontant on DR last night, where they investigated Danish distributors and a Italian producer. So in relation to that, I have interviewed Tom Mueller, who has extensive knowledge about EVOO and the fraud that happens before the products are on the shelfs. So without further ado:

Can you start with telling us a little bit about yourself?

I’m Tom Mueller. I am a free-lance writer of non-fiction and fiction. I was educated at Oxford (DPhil, Rhodes Scholar), Harvard (BA, summa cum laude), and Alief Hastings High School in rural east Texas, home of the Fighting Bears. I’ve lived or worked in 48 countries.

My first book, Extra Virginity, is a New York Times best-selling account of olive oil culture, history, and crime. My articles have appeared in the New YorkerNational Geographic MagazineNew York Times Magazine and Atlantic Monthly.

What work have you done in relation to EVOO?

Truth about EVOO was born out of my love of great olive oil, and my concern about low-grade oils being passed off as “extra virgin” in the industry today, worldwide.  As a freelance writer who for the last two decades has spent much time in and around the Mediterranean, while contributing to publications including the New Yorker, Atlantic Monthly, National Geographic, and New York Times Magazine, I felt I knew olive oil well.  But it took an assignment for the New Yorker in 2007, “Slippery Business,” to make me understand the remarkable complexity of the olive oil trade, and the immense value of olive oil itself.  Since then I’ve gone steadily deeper into oil; in 2012 I published Extra Virginity, a book that explores this great foodstuff from many angles – cultural, culinary, chemical, criminal – and introduces the artisan producers and age-old landscapes of fine olive oil.

Why does fraud happen along EVOO’s supply chain?

The fraudulent behavior comes from everywhere – from misrepresenting amounts of olives brought to the mill, to various games that are played in the milling process, to blending of higher-grade extra virgin olive oil with low-grade olive oil or with other cheaper vegetable oils, to mislabeling . . .  The list is endless, as is the ingenuity of the fraudsters.

Why is it important for, us as a consumer, to have knowledge about this fraudulent behavior?

First, to ensure you are eating a healthy, tasty and genuine product, whose origin you know. Second, to make sure that honest producers get a fair price for their product – or find a market at all (they are often excluded by low-priced, fraudulent oils). Third, that you aren’t supporting fraudsters when you buy a bottle of oil.

From your knowledge, what can be done to increase traceability and transparency of EVOO products?

It is crucial to do on-site inspections and tests of mills, refineries and storage facilities, especially in ports.  So many checks are on paperwork only, not chemical testing of oils. The chemical and sensory parameters of the extra virgin grade also have to be improved (tightened) – they are currently very loose. Labels should specify the exact geographic location where olives were grown and milled, and the exact name of the producers – too often the “brand” is simply a multinational that buys and blends other peoples’ oils.

Further on that note, do you think tech can help with increasing traceability and transparency of EVOO products? And how?

Steady scientific advances in infra-red, DNA and other testing of olive oil have appeared. These need to be incorporated, rapidly, into current legislation.

What are your tips and tricks to spot that the EVOO you buy, is in fact what it is?

That is very hard to state, because there are many factors that comes into play. But I have outlined some points below, and if you want more thorough tips and tricks go to my website here.

  • Olives are stone fruits, like cherries and plums.  So real EVOO is fresh-squeezed fruit juice – seasonal, perishable, and never better than the first few weeks it was made.
  • Bitterness and pungency are usually indicators of an oil’s healthfulness. Sweetness and butteriness are often not.
  • There are 700+ different kinds of olives, which make thousands of different kinds of oil. Asking “what’s the best olive oil?” is like asking “what’s the best wine?”  The answer is, “depends on what you’re eating it with.”
  • Know the when, who, where of your oil: When it was made (harvest date), who made it (specific producer name), and exactly where on the planet they made it.

A big thank you to Tom, for his insights on this widely loved product across the globe, and why we need to keep pushing for better traceability and transparency of food products, in general.

If you want to read or know about my work on creating better traceability and transparency with tech, read this post, where I state the current supply chain process of EVOO, and how blockchain can shift the supply chain towards more transparency of the food we eat, and how farmers, producers, retailers etc, can get better traceability.

Have a great day!

© 2018 Kristoffer Just Petersen

Blockchain as a food supply chain

How to improve trust in supply chains – by blockchain

Introduction 
The main purpose of this blog post is to state how Blockchain Technology influence the role of trust and how it might solve the challenges in tracking and tracing products throughout its supply chain, by identification of opportunities with blockchain as a platform of traceability, information and documentation sharing regarding Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO). The case partner was COOP Trading. This blog post is an executive summary of a master thesis on the matter.

We know surprisingly very little about most of the products we eat every day. Before even reaching the end consumer, products travel through an often-vast process flow of retailers, distributors, transporters, storage facilities, and suppliers, yet in almost every case these journeys remain unseen. This can lead to fraud of adulteration and tampering with the products we consume everyday. Which the The Danish Veterinary and Food Administration action team found, by adulterated EVOOs at Dagrofa and Dansk Supermarked. Out of the 35 tested bottles, only 6 could be classified as EVOO.

Challenges
The identified challenges from the gathered data, were the difficulty to qualify trust as it’s very ambiguous of what it entails, but is key to have an effective supply chain. Regarding the actual process of EVOO, the law requirement of only knowing “one step back, one step forth” of where the product came from, the lack of interoperability of systems along the supply chain, formats rangning from paper slips, oral communication to large ERP systems. The low traceability and documentation sharing hinders an effective supply chain, especially when fraudulent behaviour seems a great concern.

Results
One of the outcomes where what kinds of trust might be influenced by blockchain. Contract trust, predictability and dependability was chosen from 21 different kinds (Seppänen 2005). After a workshop with COOP Trading employee’s, they deemed contract trust as a central aspect of trust in a supplier out of the 21. It was found that blockchain and smart contracts inherent qualities that might qualify the technology to accomplish a form of digital trust, by managing one of the approaches to measure trust, contract trust.
The outcome for COOP Trading was conceptual UML blockchain design, illustrating the possibilities of enhanced traceability, information, documentation sharing along the supply chain of EVOO. The challenges depicted was information quality, legal implications and digital trust.

  • With information quality, is the issue with garbage in, garbage out as data transferred to the blockchain needs to be truthful and of high quality for the blockchain platform to work. This might be solved by RFID tags to get quality data.
  • Legal implications is the current legislation challenging greater traceability and information sharing, due to contractual bindings between buyer/supplier (FPA), and on blockchain application legislation as it is highly unregulated.
  • With digital trust would be a form of calculative trust, that one can place trust in a technology to handle what is to be expected of it, and thereby handle aspects of trust.

The takeaway
Blockchain have great opportunities to influence the role of trust, by developing a form of digital trust, and be a platform for greater traceability, product information and documentation sharing among supply chain participants. With any new technological improvements it should sprout internally, teaching management of the possibilities, internal meetings and identify other areas where the technology can be applied in the future. Take time to do a simple test, gain knowledge and grow from there.

If this has your interest, raised some questions or just got you curious for more, please contact me. I have a 12 page summary that gives a lot more detail, and of course the 109 page long full thesis on the matter, if you´re really into it.

Looking forward to hear from you.

Kristoffer Just

Below is the illustrations made, first the current supply chain of EVOO and then with blockchain as a platform.

Current


Blockchain supply chain

© 2018 Kristoffer Just Petersen

Interview – “Mr. RFID”, Henrik Granau (Part 2)

Welcome to Part 2 of my interview with Henrik Granau, or more correctly, Mr. RFID. If you haven’t read Part 1, I urge you to do that, to get a good understanding of Henrik, RFID and its challenges. Simply click here!

If you already have read Part 1, I love that you did, then you know that this part is going to focus on the opportunities with RFID within food traceability/transparency. No more small talk, let’s dive into it!

And then turning from the challenges, what are the general opportunities with RFID?

There are a lot of application areas and certain Industries where there are still obvious opportunities, but in general I believe it is in the combination with other technologies we see the huge potential;

By using RFID you create a transparency on how goods, assets etc. are flowing through your operation and if you add to this detailed information on how the workflow is actually being performed, you have established the foundation of making better decisions in your organization.

When combining these operational data with other data (‘Big Data’) and Software Robots (Artificial Intelligence), you can create new services and business models (‘disruption’).

Almost everything within the area of ‘Internet of Things’ involve wireless communication with a device which has to be uniquely identified to make sense – hence “RFID” will be ‘pervasive’.   

Building on that, from your knowledge, what are the potential of RFID tags to create greater traceability of food products and why?

Internationally we already have a number of good cases in food traceability (Fish, livestock, vegetables) with RFID and combined with temperature sensors, we have established better cold-chain management. I believe that traceability within the supply chain can still be improved, but in general the technology is in place and we have the good cases with documented results.

The challenge is that we want the consumers to be able to have the complete history of each item available on their smartphone with one scan. If it’s RFID (NFC) or 2D barcode doesn’t matter so much – the challenge is to capture all the information during the product’s lifetime automatically which is achieved by using RFID on the transportation unit. For this to work, the unique item numbers which are packed has to be associated with the unique identifier of the transportation unit, and in some areas you will then have to add some evidence that the goods hasn’t been tampered with during transportation.

So creating greater traceability is possible with RFID, but you have other issues depending on the objectives; 1) for manufacturers to issue effective recalls, 2) for consumers to check the goods before consumption, 3) for protecting against fraud, etc.  

What potential do you see in a RFID/Blockchain combination to create greater traceability of food products, from your knowledge?

I am not a blockchain specialist, but I understand that what blockchain can add is a bulletproof distributed verification mechanism. So, when the issue is to have verification that a specific organization is guaranteeing that their part of the traceability data are valid, then you could use blockchain to lock a certain ‘hand-over’ transaction with some associated data. If RFID is used then this process could be done automatically at choke points. As an anti-counterfeit method.

I believe I can learn more about the potential with RFID/Blockchain by being kept updated on your progress.

If someone was interested in RFID, what would be a few things you would suggest to investigate further?

I will start with recommending to vist www.rfididk.org. This is RFID I Danmark’s website where we have tried to give a good introduction to RFID – especially through cases and slides from presentations held at our conferences.

As a special service the RFID I Danmark Association is offering that anyone for free can contact me with initial questions. You can mail me at henrik@rfididk.dk or you can call me at +45 21 832 835.

Thank you to Henrik, for his great insights into RFID and the opportunities. From this and what I learned from the RFID in Denmark conference, I see great potential for a RFID/Blockchain solution in supply chains. RFID will secure correct data inputs, which can’t be tampered or adulterated, which then are data inputs for the immutable blocks in the blockchain application.

One of the key takeaways from the conference, was the lack of adoption and their one-sided focus on RFID being a inventory solution, and not grasping a more holistic picture of what the tech can do. And I feel that, that is a general thing when investigating new technologies, that it is very one-sided and not trying to connect all the dots.

Thank you reading, have a great day!

© 2017 Kristoffer Just Petersen

What is Blockchain? And how does it work?

The Genesis

The blockchain technology was invented by a person under the alias Satoshi Nakamoto, to support the cryptocurrency Bitcoin (Nakamoto 2007). For the first time it was possible for many users to trade values with each other over the Internet without the need for a third party or intermediary – typically a bank – to verify the transaction. A blockchain is a ledger of facts, replicated across several computers assembled in a distributed peer-to-peer network. Or put simply, a chain of blocks (Beck 2017). Anyone participating in a blockchain can review the entries in it; users can update the blockchain only by consensus of a majority of participants. Once entered into a blockchain, information can never be erased (Nakamoto 2007: 2).

Blocks are an order of facts in a network of non-trusted peers, similar to how Uber’s technology intermediates between suppliers and consumers of transportation. Facts are grouped in blocks, and there is only a single chain of blocks, which then is replicated in the entire network. Each block has a reference to the previous block, through the hashing cryptography that links the blocks. Some of the nodes in the chain create a new block with pending facts. They, in the case of bitcoin miners, compete to see if their local block is going to become the next block in the chain for the entire network, called proof of work. Then this block is sent to all other nodes in the network. All nodes run a check on that to see if the block is correct, then add it to their copy of the chain, and try to build a new block with new pending facts (Nakamoto 2007: 3).

But it has gradually become clear that the technique has much broader applications than just acting as the backbone of Bitcoin. One of the key elements is the ledger, which is a database of the content of the blockchain – whether it is bitcoin transactions, intelligent smart contracts, or something else (Boye 2016).

Blockchain is a type of electronic ledger created to ensure that once a party transfers a digital asset, he cannot transfer it to anyone else, prevent double spending. Unlike other ledgers, blockchain is owned by its participants, and decisions about what it records are subject to participant consensus.

Recording accuracy is ensured by duplication: every participant has a copy of the ledger. Discrepancy-resolution mechanisms ensure that all copies reflect an identical history. Though permissions can be managed with a fair degree of control, by default any permitted participant can view all transactions. Thus together with immutability, notarization and assured provenance, transparency is a core blockchain attribute (1).

There are many ways of applying a blockchain technology, in short, either as a public blockchain, a private blockchain, or as a consortium blockchain. A public blockchain is a blockchain that anyone in the world can read, through which anyone in the world can send transactions, and include transactions if they are valid, i.e. Bitcoin (Buterin 2015). A fully private blockchain is a blockchain where write permissions are kept “centralized” to one or few institutions, i.e. banks (Buterin 2015). A consortium blockchain is a blockchain where the consensus process is controlled by a pre-selected set of nodes. An example, is a consortium of 15 financial institutions, each of which operates a node and of which 10 must sign every block in order for the block to be valid. A consortium blockchain can be altered to fit the need of the one using it, ex that the R3 consortium want different “rules”, than the Hyperledger consortium or Ethereum Alliance (Buterin 2015; R3; Hyperledger).  

Public blockchains can offer advantages that a private blockchain and consortium simply cannot, and vice versa. The take-away with the different ways of adopting blockchain technology, in relation to COOP Trading, is what they want to gain from a blockchain solution, who should be a part of it, who should have read and write permissions and what data can’t be shared. One must have a high due diligence in order to research the possibilities and challenges with a blockchain solution.     

Factbox:

“A block is the ‘current’ part of a blockchain which records some or all of the recent transactions, and once completed goes into the blockchain as permanent database. Each time a block gets completed, a new block is generated. There is a countless number of such blocks in the blockchain. The blocks are linked to each other (like a chain) in proper linear, chronological order with every block containing a hash of the previous block.” (Investopedia)

Finally, blockchain isn’t simply a secure collective database. In addition to transactions, it also records and executes simple programs.

The idea of pre-programed conditions, interfaced between users, and then broadcasted to everyone, is called a smart contract. A contract is a promise that signing parties agree to make legally-enforceable. Proponents of smart contracts claim that many kinds of contractual clauses can be partially or fully self-executing, even self-enforcing, or both. The aim of smart contracts is to provide security, which is superior to traditional contract law and to reduce other transaction costs associated with contracting (Tapscott 2016: 105-108). Buterin explains it as: “(…) then we can cut costs to near-zero with a smart contract.” (Parker 2016).

Blockchain smart contracts may also influence, or be influenced by, product movements. For instance, a positive QA test indication can release a part for assembly. However, today that role is played by ERP systems. Blockchain technology doesn’t necessarily add value in such traditional operations management tasks (1).

Factbox:

“An asset or currency is transferred into a program and the program runs this code and at some point it automatically validates a condition and it automatically determines whether the asset should go to one person or back to the other person, or whether it should be immediately refunded to the person who sent it or some combination thereof.” (BlockGeeks)

  1. http://www.sdcexec.com/article/12247812/supply-chain-finance-on-the-blockchain-enables-network-collaboration

© 2018 Kristoffer Just Petersen