IBM blockchain tracks carbon footprint of fashion goods

  • January 19, 2021
  • Steve Rogerson

Covalent, a fashion brand recently launched by California-based Newlight Technologies, is using IBM blockchain so consumers can track the carbon footprint and supply chain of its eyewear and handbags.

Purchasing sustainable products is a growing motivation for consumers. A recent study by IBM showed 57% of consumers surveyed were willing to change their shopping habits to reduce environmental impact.

Covalent’s products are made with AirCarbon, a biomaterial made by microorganisms that is meltable and can be used as an alternative to fibre, plastics and leather. Because it is made using renewable power, AirCarbon is certified as carbon-negative by the Carbon Trust, meaning it reduces the amount of carbon in the air.

In addition to being part of a new category of regenerative products emerging that can have a positive impact on the amount of carbon in the atmosphere, Covalent’s AirCarbon-based products provide traceability through the application of IBM blockchain technology.

Often, when consumers buy products labelled as sustainable fashion, they cannot see a verified record of how the product was made or how it affects the environment. Covalent’s products bridge that gap with a blockchain-based number that can be used to show the steps in the production process for that specific product as well as its third-party-verified carbon impact so shoppers can view impact the product is having on the environment.

A 12-digit number printed on each Covalent product, known as the carbon date, represents the time when the AirCarbon used to create that specific product was created. The number can be entered into Covalent’s web site to trace the steps that went into creating the product. The supply chain journey that brought each product to life is stored in an immutable record on the blockchain and stretches from when the AirCarbon was formed and moulded into a handbag to who independently verified its carbon footprint and when it was moved to a stockroom.

“Our goal was to give people the information they need to decide what kind of impact they want to make,” said Newlight CEO Mark Herrema. “With IBM blockchain and LinuxOne technology, we can now provide visibility into not only the steps used to make each Covalent product, but also the carbon impact that each specific product has on the environment. For us, that’s important, because it helps make tangible the unique pathway that led to the creation of that product.”

By working with IBM business partner Cognition Foundry, a services provider and systems integrator, Covalent is able to host its blockchain on IBM LinuxOne, a secured server for mission critical workloads that provides scalability and resiliency, including what is said to be the industry’s first and only FIPS 140-2 level-four certified hardware security module.

“Blockchain’s ability to foster trust gives Covalent’s customers a better understanding of how their products were made,” said Alistair Rennie, general manager of IBM blockchain. “In turn, Covalent can create a better customer experience, and a better opportunity for consumers to understand how their choices impact the environment. This is another great example of how blockchain is supporting our mission of using technology for good.”

Founded in 2003, Newlight Technologies is a biotechnology company in Huntington Beach, California, dedicated to producing materials that help improve life. After over ten years of research, Newlight developed AirCarbon, a regenerative material made by natural ocean microorganisms that is being used to replace synthetic plastics and fibres to help tackle plastics pollution and climate change.