Could Blockchain help in overcoming the challenges in commodities trading?

Global production and consumption of sustainable products (e.g. cocoa and bananas), is increasing rapidly. Indeed, the value of trade across listed agricultural and seafood commodities is worth in excess of £35 billion. Organisations are increasingly buying into this agenda. For example, in 2014, the cosmetics and beauty giant L’Oréal committed to sourcing 100% of the renewable raw materials it uses from sustainable sources, as well as a goal of ‘zero deforestation’ by 2020.

However, this rise in trade and consumption is not without its challenges. For example, as is the case in all commodity trading, there is significant price volatility in the markets (see graphic below).

Commodities have been on a roller coaster ride for the past couple of years due to a surge in demand (and subsequent slowdown) from emerging economies, such as India and China, and an increasingly strong dollar. For example, prices for industrial metals (e.g. nickel and copper), fell by almost 40% in 2015 due to decreased demand from China. Another challenge lies in the disparity of the markets. For smaller producers, the capacity to produce for sustainable markets more often than not tends to be concentrated in more developed, export-oriented economies. This is so simply because it is easier to do business where there is better infrastructure and governance. There are some exceptions to this general rule, including cocoa which is largely produced in less-developed economies such as the Ivory Coast and Ghana. Another exception is cobalt, the largest producer of which is the Democratic Republic of Congo, even though around 1/3 of the global market is controlled by the minerals giant Glencore.

Overcoming these challenges requires innovative approaches. Internally, one strategy might be through the use of Porter’s value chain analysis (i.e. the range of activities in taking a product or service from conceptualisation to delivery). Through this approach an organisation examines its production processes (i.e. its primary activities – e.g. marketing, operations, logistics, and support activities – procurement, technology development and human resource management), and identifies where improvements can be made. If the organisation is competing through differentiation advantage it will try to perform its activities more effectively and efficiently than its competitors. If it competes through cost advantage, it will try to perform internal activities at lower costs than its competitors, and therefore enhance its bottom line and competitive advantage.

However, it is in the trading of the commodities that there are significant opportunities for innovation to address the challenges. Blockchain, the method of recording data in the form of a digital ledger of transactions is one such innovation. Indeed, if traders started sharing data using a tailor-made version of Blockchain it could remove a lot of manual processing, smoothen the volatility, speed up transactions (thereby reducing costs), and overcome infrastructure and capacity differences (thereby leading to some rebalancing of the markets).

Various examples already exist. For example, the technology company Everledger is using Blockchain to develop a system of warranties that enable mining companies to verify that their rough-cut diamonds are not being used by militias to fund conflicts, and that they comply with the Kimberley Process – a government and community-backed certification scheme for diamonds. In 2015, the investment bank Goldman Sachs and Chinese investment firm IDG Capital Partners invested £35 million in Circle Internet Financial, a start-up to exploit Blockchain technology to improve consumer money transfers. Similarly, the tech company R3 CEV has developed a consortium, including more than 40 global banks (e.g. Barclays, UBS and Wells Fargo), to explore the use of distributed ledger technology. Therefore, the rise in resource consumption has brought with it challenges. However, innovative strategies to address these challenges do exist.

Student Coin

Student Coin aims to empower students, through applying social values of the students with the financial value of the currency. With a core belief of “by the students, for the students”, keeping the interests of the students as the focus.

Offering collective empowerment to connect and centralise the group, to give the power back to the students and to allow a greater influence from the student group.
Ultimately helping students with their financial situation, using discounts and loyalty rewards.
Helping students overcome issues such as: managing their money, keeping track of spending, cost of living, overseas transaction fees whilst leveraging their spending power,

Blue Light Services: Measuring Impact and Forecasting Intervention Solutions

The CCEG Blockchain UN Lab is developing Software-as-as-Service (SaaS) platforms for real life usage by organisations, institutions, governments and individuals to aid and  resolve intractable problems in society. Since 2011 we have been the main provider of public sector  solutions for Social Value Act 2012 and for corporates for the Modern Slavery Act 2015.  This new system aims to …

  • Measures impact of current interventions
  • Visualizes the impact in 3D across the region
  • Handles multiple agencies simultaneously eg. fire, police, health, employment, etc
  • Reports the impact in the framework of your choice
  • Can predict and used for modelling ‘what-if’ interventions
  • Demonstrates for commissioning different impact and agency options
  • Provides a solution for empowering unaligned, disaffected and hard to reach groups
  • Integrates with existing live command and control agency systems


More than grades: how to add ‘value’ to a university experience

The issue of how to value the impact that universities have on students is a major bone of contention. Mainly measured in terms of ‘value for money’, a number of methods and a plethora of metrics are available, but each one gives us only one aspect of a much more complicated picture. In this blog some of such ways of valuing are reviewed so to argue that a more comprehensive value system can be put in place to the benefit of students, universities and the wider community.

Just future earnings?

The value and currency of a university degree has been under question for a while and more so since  the rise in tuition fees. Common ways to put a ‘price tag’ on the future gains of a university degree is mainly calculated through the Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education (DLHE) survey. The survey focuses on the number of students gaining graduate employment six months from graduation. While future earnings can be a measure of the impact of gaining a degree, there are a number of weakness in just relying on them. The first is that gaining employment within such a short time is dependent upon the wider economic context. The second is that there are well-established patterns which favour higher initial earning for students from some universities. Third, the survey does not take into account the choices that individuals make some of whom might decide not to seek graduate employment as a career progression. Fourth, there is a possible mismatch between how some types of job, mainly in education and social care and mainly carried out by women, are labelled as graduate employment and the knowledge and expertise they actually require. 

Just satisfaction?

Another common and no way less contentious way to measure the benefits of a university experience is through the National Student Survey. The survey, composed of 27 questions, is designed to elicit students’ views on the teaching and learning they experienced ( Yet, this covers only one aspect of a university experience and does not provide us with evidence of how the experience has had an impact on the student while at university or beyond. Another limitation of the survey is that ‘satisfaction’ is a at best a proxy and at worst time bound. While this argument does not diminish the argument about satisfaction and personal experience, it challenges the limited set of evidence such a survey can elicit. More importantly, the survey can be of used to rank universities, but how does it enable the individual student to show the full range of experiences she or she was involved in and their benefits?

The points above pose a question of how to ‘measure’ the value of a university degree beyond the seemingly tangible future earnings or reductive satisfaction surveys.

The comprehensive university experience: making the intangible count

There is clearly more to a university experience than the grades one gains and the content one learns. There is more to how a university experience impacts on graduates than just future earnings. As valuable as these two criteria are, they do not capture a number of so far intangible aspects of a university experience. For example, we value voluntary work, or support for the internal and external community, or simply being supportive of colleagues and fellow students. We also value the effort we put in achieving what is important to us. We also value showing the hard and soft employability skills we learn and apply. Yet, although valuable, such activities are intangible and therefore difficult to capture in a CV, at best, and lost, at worst. There are of course ways to make such experiences tangible, such as awards, certificates, prizes. But do they actually make what we value and the value we can bring visible, tangible, concrete?

One metric to capture value/s

Capturing the intangible contributions we make and the way in which being at university contributes to adding value requires to think differently. It requires to think differently about what is of value, how to assess it, and how to trace the way in which value was co-created through the many experiences to be had while at university. Combining both hard metrics and the Personal Value metrics, the CCEG Blockchain UN Lab is developing a method to make visible the transaction and worth of intangible and non-financial values using a unique combination of Blockchain Technology and the Social Earnings Ratio. The aim is that of developing objectively derived indicators and metrics to combine a variety of experiences, contributions and gains to show how being at university contributed to personal growth while also contributing to the growth and wellbeing of the university and wider communities. Through the Blockchain technology, the CCEG Blockchain UN Lab is seeking to make visible the journey through which that growth has occurred so to create a personalised passport as a testimony of value added, value for money and, most importatnly, value creation.