Fighting fakes with Geeq’s supply chain solution

By: Geeq  on Jul 25, 2023

Counterfeiting and adulteration of consumables, from food to fabrics, is a growing problem. Tangled global supply chains have given rise to countless scandals, from beef that’s really horsemeat to honey that’s really sugar syrup. We have a way to fight the fakes.

There is a tension in the consumer marketplace today. While consumers are increasingly concerned with the provenance of their goods (for ethical, environmental and quality reasons), time and again, it has been reported that they are not getting what they pay for. Maybe that Egyptian cotton sheet is a cotton blend from India. Maybe your jar of honey is mixed with sugar. Maybe horsemeat is part of that beef burger patty. Maybe nobody trusts labels with organic claims any more.

How much does it matter if advertising is misleading? Well, for consumers, there may be health risks, as well as broken trust. For brands, there is tremendous reputational risk. Even companies with reliable sourcing may lose revenue if they can’t convince a jaded market; consumers will not pay for premium quality if a brand has lost credibility.

On top of that, regulators are introducing increasingly stringent rules to combat environmental and human rights abuses. In the US, for instance, a law introduced last year requires importers to prove that any goods from China’s Uyghur region – which produces a fifth of the world’s cotton supply – were not made using forced labor; if proof is lacking, the shipment may be impounded. In France, textile companies must now provide extensive information to consumers, from the proportion of recycled content to material traceability. The extremely high level of detail demanded in these disclosures is expected to be beyond what many companies can provide at present.   

The hidden costs in product supply chains.

To fully appreciate the costs of information for companies, you have to understand the complexities of global supply chains. Within the fashion and textiles industry, for instance, the final product comprises materials that have traveled across many borders and been combined in many ways. Before a sheet lands on the retail shelf, cotton grown in Egypt may be blended with Indian cotton, spun into yarn in China, then cut and sewn in Italy, before being distributed from a Romanian warehouse. That is a simple example; using more fabric types in the same garment can become exponentially more complicated. 

Even in the food industry, the end product commonly mixes together ingredients from multiple sources, making it difficult or impossible to verify the provenance of any individual ingredient. A jar of honey may be labeled as “bottled in the UK” while containing a blend of imported honey from many countries, including China, where honey is commonly adulterated with syrup. And so on. The more sources involved in producing a consumer good and the more steps involved in moving it from points of origin to factory to warehouse to retail, the harder it is to be sure of what goes into that product.

The muddle may be entirely accidental or beyond suppliers’ control.  For example, poor harvests may drive a cotton mill to source raw materials from a different supplier than usual.  These substitutes are understandable.  On the other hand, there may be deliberate attempts to substitute lower-quality materials in a bid to cut costs and increase profits. Weak links and poor visibility into the full supply chain make such deviations hard to distinguish and  easy to hide

Additional costs are imposed when it is difficult to identify subpar products without rigorous testing: e.g. organic cotton doesn’t look or feel any different to that produced with pesticides. But data shows a suspicious gap between the production reported by organic cotton farmers, and the sales of “organic” cotton garments. Realizing it doesn’t add up is one thing; finding the gaps where traceability fails is another. 

What can test-and-trace achieve?

So far, proposed solutions have taken one of two directions. The first is to tighten up quality control through sophisticated forensic testing; identifying provenance through isotope analysis of a finished fabric, for instance. That works to check what region a natural fiber such as cotton comes from, but is less useful for resolving questions such as whether a synthetic material was or wasn’t recycled. It also fails to provide assurances as to the working conditions or environmental practices behind the materials, determining only their geographical origin. 

Taking the same tack but in the other direction, additives can be used to provide full digital traceability through artificial “signatures”. In either case, however, establishing reliable information through tracing demands an extensive, detailed and laborious process to map out the entire supply chain – and intermediaries may feel threatened by such attempts, seeing it as an attempt to cut them out.  All in all, these methods add expense and time. 

The second approach is to use blockchain to improve visibility through the supply chain. Cheaper, simpler and more versatile than tracing, blockchain is capable of facilitating information sharing throughout complex networks. Making it easy to maintain a complete trail of every step of the chain, blockchain data structures introduce cryptographic methods as well as checks and balances to provide independent and irrefutable proof that records are still as they were originally entered.

The Geeq value proposition.

At Geeq, we are building to solve problems to bring visibility (and reliability) back to systems that have grown impossibly complicated. Geeq Data offers enterprises a lightweight and flexible tool to provide data verification and discovery, ensuring that the claims made at every step of the supply chain can be tracked and traced.

Geeq’s unique solution is the ability to go beyond mere confirmation that data has been recorded in a database, to provide easily accessible proof for a contemporaneous attestation. It is the proof the data was validated and recorded in the same state as it was submitted provides the assurance that the data itself has not been tampered with, even if there was an attempt to tamper with the data system. Proof is one of the most important reasons to adopt blockchain as a data structure rather than a trusted, centralized database. 

Geeq’s blockchain provides appropriate credit to the reporter on the other end. Geeq’s protocol creates an incentive for participants to self-select if they wish to form lasting relationships based on good character and acts.

When you credibly document what you’ve done and the other person can independently prove you did what you said, you two are able to form a trusted relationship in ways that others cannot.

Do you need to be perfect? Of course not. There will always be circumstances beyond your control, everyone understands that.

The value of Geeq Data is that you can report these circumstances honestly and maintain trust. Thus, a poor crop can be honestly recorded and verified, and distinguished between a false claim of high quality materials when substitutes were used.

The ease of the Geeq solution.

With resource-light implementation for multiple chains, it becomes easy for any enterprise or specific collection of partners to create a shared platform where each participant in the supply chain can upload attestations of the product details before it leaves their custody. The supply contract, invoices, certificates of origin and more can be hashed and recorded on the blockchain, where metatags make them easily discoverable at any later stage.  

Geeq provides a crucial new and efficient way for supply chain partners to establish and maintain credibility.

Geeq offers a combination of low cost, multiple-chain deployment, permissioning for partners, standardized data structures, and searchable metadata, supported by easy access to proofs.  

The implication is blockchain value at scale.  A private Geeq blockchain can be used to track all relevant verifications, on any aspect of quality, such as environmental or labor audits, documented delays at customs, – all of which may be made accessible in real time to those who need to know, even at great geographical distances. The clarity that timely data can bring to enhance resiliency in supply chains, identify potential fraud, and address supply chain finance brings previously impossible, evidence-based trust back into the supply relationship. 

Blockchains cannot solve all problems. It may still be prudent to visit suppliers on the ground, or to subject products to more rigorous testing. But Geeq blockchains are designed to reduce much of the costs of monitoring and documenting quality which, in turn, provides data for easier detection of counterfeit products. Transparency goes a long way to establishing supplier credibility and building trust. It also takes a giant step toward solving the pressing issues of complying with burdensome regulations, by producing credible contemporaneous statements about labor and environmental conditions at each stage of the supply chain.

Geeq solutions generate benefits at every level, from worker to enterprise to consumer – even the planet itself, on a global scale. Get in touch today to learn more about how Geeq is redefining blockchain for the real world.

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