Chain of Change: Blockchain for Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Part 3

How Blockchain Can Help Achieve UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals to Break the Chains of Poverty, Inequality and Climate Change


Impact Blockchain is LATTICE80’s initiative to bring technology and community together to create solutions with social impact. Industry experts early on have recognized the potential for blockchain to transform how transactions are created and processed across industries and between businesses and individuals, thanks to a secure and distributed way of recording and sharing data in decentralized networks.

In this four-part series, we look into how the blockchain platform can help achieve UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals “to end all forms of poverty, fight inequalities and tackle climate change, while ensuring that no one is left behind.” The 17 SDGs are part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, a 15-year plan adopted by 193 world leaders in the September 2015 summit that enjoins all countries “to promote prosperity while protecting the planet”.

This third installment takes on the more complex goals 9 through 12 towards sustainable development. These goals build upon the more specific goals discussed in previous articles and put much stress on the most important dimensions of inclusive and sustainable development – economic, social and environmental.

Click here for the first and second parts of this series.

9 Build resilient infrastructure, promote sustainable industrialization and foster innovation

Essentially a key driver to eradicating poverty and hunger, industries create jobs and livelihoods that drive economic growth and social development. A resilient infrastructure and a culture of innovation are necessary in creating an environment optimal for sustainable industries to flourish.

However, as UN reports, basic infrastructure like roads, information and communication technologies, sanitation, electrical power and water are still unavailable in many developing countries. An estimated 1.2 billion people worldwide do not have access to reliable phone services. More than 2 billion people lack access to basic sanitation and about 800 million lack access to water. In developing countries, less than 30 percent of agricultural products have been industrialized.

Where blockchain can help

With a decentralized ledger technology, basic services such as electricity and water on sharing economy can help to extend their access and availability. Blockchain can provide alternative power and energy distributions systems by decentralizing power grids and providing an efficient platform by which power can be directly redistributed on the consumer level. In the same way, decentralized water utilities on blockchain can provide more efficient distribution and payment systems.

Blockchain can help drive industrialization and innovation as more information become accessible and global. In a consumer-driven economy, blockchain can increase transparency and improve customer experience by providing data as products move through the supply chain by reducing counterfeits, speeding up delivery of goods and services and even reducing costs. Innovative solutions on blockchain can provide alternative ways of investing and ensuring fair compensation. Bankex and Watercoin embarked on a token-based water supply project that ensured donations from worldwide sources to be securely distributed to families in Narok, Kenya that need water.

10 Reduce inequality within and among countries

We see inequalities all around us all the time. This goal aims to reduce all forms of inequalities based on income, sex, age, disability, sexual orientation, race, class, ethnicity, religion and opportunity across and within countries by 2030. We are working against huge odds, though:

Income inequality still prevails, with the richest 10 percent earning up to 40 percent of the total global income, while the poorest 10 percent only 2-7 percent. Women still earn less compared to their male counterparts and this gender gap in employment and income opportunities will, according to the World Economic Forum, take 217 years to close.

Where blockchain can help

The decentralized ledger technology of blockchain provides a platform to secure data, public records and transactions and promote transparency. In a 2016 TED talk, Don Tapscott, co-founder and Executive Chairman of the Blockchain Research Institute, pegs social inequality as being ‘at the heart of all of the anger and extremism and protectionism and xenophobia’. Early on, he has identified ways that blockchain can democratize wealth creation, engage more people in the economy and ensure fair compensation for all involved.

Secure data on a blockchain platform can settle disputes on tenuous land titles, provide immutable records of ownership of intellectual properties and creative content and offer itself as a robust database of information. The Kimberley Process Certification Scheme uses blockchain to verify conflict-free diamonds. Access to migration data, for example, can ensure that migrants are protected and integrated better into their new communities. Blockchain can also provide equalizing alternatives to traditional ways of banking, remitting money and even voting. Investing in digital tokens on blockchain are made available to everyone without any bias. ARYZE, for example, offers a mobile payment platform that supports multiple assets and currencies. The 2.5 billion unbanked population can manage their income, receive and remit money without transaction fees.

11 Make cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable

People flock to the cities for better work opportunities and access to goods and services that may be unavailable in the suburban and rural areas. With increasing urban population comes problems such as congestion, lack of basic services, shortage of adequate housing, declining infrastructure and rising air pollution within cities. The world’s cities occupy just 3 per cent of the Earth’s land, but account for 60-80 per cent of energy consumption and 75 per cent of carbon emissions.

With the population in major cities projected to rise to 5 billion people by 2030, and to 6.5 billion by 2050, access to basic services such as fresh water supply, energy, housing, transportation are some of the mounting challenges of rapid urbanization. Overall public health quickly becomes a major concern. As of 2016, 90% of urban dwellers have been breathing unsafe air, resulting in 4.2 million deaths due to ambient air pollution. More than half of the global urban population were exposed to air pollution levels at least 2.5 times higher than the safety standard.

Where blockchain can help

Blockchain can help facilitate provision of essential urban services such as waste management, energy provision, and water distribution to name a few. Sepco Industries and fintech platform Orientum have formed a partnership where people can invest in the technology to turn plastic bags into fuel through digital coins.

Blockchain can help provide solutions towards building smart cities that operate on a sharing economy. Resources such as cars, bikes, extra rooms in the house or coworking spaces can be shared and monetized. Ethereum-based German start-up is developing a ‘Universal Share Network’ powered by blockchain technology that allows underused assets such as temporarily vacant apartments, office space, shipping containers, or machinery to be used.

CarbonX, a new loyalty program founded on blockchain technology that incentivizes environmentally friendly choices. Consumers are rewarded with CxT, a digital coin that can be used to buy other products.

12 Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns

With a population size expected to grow in size and wealth, it will increase demand for already constrained natural resources. The efficient management of our shared natural resources, and the way we dispose of toxic waste and pollutants, are important targets to achieve this goal. Encouraging industries, businesses and consumers to recycle and reduce waste is equally important, as is supporting developing countries to move towards more sustainable patterns of consumption by 2030. Reducing waste and choosing for sustainable options are crucial.

Where blockchain can help

Blockchain can be a good platform to build on AI and IoT technologies to determine and optimize energy consumption of appliances in smart homes. Blockchain also makes it possible to track raw materials through the supply chain to ensure products are sourced in line with their sustainability claims (e.g. conflict mineral legislation such as 3TG). UK-based company Provenance had piloted tracking fish to ensure they were caught legally and sustainably.

Plastic Bank is an initiative to stop plastic from going to the oceans by exchanging plastic for money, items or blockchain-based tokens. In November 2017, the Blockchain Development Company or BCDC launched the first of its many recycling initiatives. Partnering with Plastic Bank, RecycletoCoin is a blockchain-based mobile app that rewards tokens in exchange for recycling plastic within the UK.

Blockchain and the Sustainable Development Goals