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Research and analysis: Use of distributed ledger technologies to verify the provenance of goods

Distributed ledger technologies offer a unique combination of characteristics that could make them an attractive method for assuring the provenance of consumer products.

First used to support the Bitcoin cryptocurrency, distributed ledger technologies such as blockchain are now attracting interest from business supply chains, regulators and consumers in other sectors. This includes industries such as food and agriculture, healthcare and pharmaceuticals, creative arts, as well as markets for high-value luxury goods.

However the use of distributed ledgers is still at an early stage, and it is not clear what the practical issues will be when used in the supply chains of different types of consumer products.

This report critically assesses the use of distributed ledgers in sectors where they have already been trialled, developing an evidence base to help inform their use in the supply chains for different types of consumer product.

The detailed research programme comprised desk research followed by industry interviews. It addresses 2 primary questions:

  • how to distinguish between the different types of distributed ledger technologies, how they work (in the context of the blockchain technology) and their relative strengths and weaknesses
  • where these technologies are being used (or piloted for use) to verify the provenance of consumer products or of the components used in the supply chain of these consumer products, identifying success factors as well as potential opportunities and challenges faced