Is BanQu The Answer To Fashion’s Modern Slavery Problem?

The BanQu Effect

Meeting Ashish Gadnis was the most memorable moment of my entire Sustainable Brands conference experience. Could he possibly be the sustainable superhero that we are all looking for to save fashion’s modern slavery issue? Possibly.

Gadnis is the CEO of BanQu, a for-profit, blockchain-as-a-service company working to eradicate extreme poverty. The goal—to make 100 millions dollars while helping 100 million people out of poverty. He is unabashedly honest about being a for-profit company. At the same time, he is equally devoted to ending extreme poverty, particularly where it exists as a part of the “last mile” of a global supply chain. The last mile is the person at the beginning of the supply chain. It’s the farmer, the miner, the garment worker who have zero representation at the global economic table. They’re simply trying to eek out a living. Making a living farming cassava or barley for our beer enjoyment or mining diamonds for our I do’s or sewing our two dollar tees. They are the invisible ones.

Before BanQu, a mother in Zambia had no way to prove to Anheuser-Busch that she sold 40 kilos of barley to them. Where was her proof? In this supply chain scenario, there is the mother with her barley who sells to a broker. The broker sells to an aggregator who then sells to the brand. As you can imagine, this scenario is rife with opportunities to cheat the mother who sits on the last mile, disconnected with no voice. She cannot prove how much she sold to the broker and she is being charged twice for transportation (once by the broker, once by the aggregator). So Anheuser-Busch decided that it wanted all of its farmers on its last mile to be connected, skilled, and financially empowered by 2025. Enter BanQu. In the new supply chain scenario, everyone involved receives a permanent digital copy of the aforementioned transaction, all thanks to blockchain. The mother receives a text message on her SMS phone with a price guarantee, agreed weight, quality, calculation, and payment information (without any transportation changes) from Anheuser-Busch. The mother is now empowered and can build her financial independence (particularly if a male figure in her life was previously stealing her profits). Blockchain ensures that everyone involved receives a receipt. It’s similar to a purchase at your local grocery store. When the cashier is finished ringing you up, you pay, and then you receive a receipt of the transaction and the store maintains their receipt of the transaction. Simple.

Is it foolproof? It’s damn near foolproof. If a broker short-changes the mother by 10 kilos, he (or she) will not be able to offload those 10 kilos independently because there isn’t a digital transaction verifying information about the 10 kilos. Without that transaction, there is no payment from Anhauser-Busch. This helps to weed out bad actors which is the primary issue for the fashion industry. Brands audit factories. They leave thinking all is well. The moment they’re gone, the abuse returns. The workers are left with no voice, With BanQu, blockchain builds labor verification into the transaction. Labor verification ensures that the person’s identity has been authenticated.This is key to identifying wrongdoing and hopefully putting a dent in the modern slave labor trade. Additionally, factory workers would have a permanent digital transaction of the work completed, the wage that should be paid, and any overtime pay guaranteed by the brand. As with Anheuser-Busch, everyone along the supply chain would receive a copy of these transactions. Now brands would be able to honestly say that they know what’s going on in their factories. But brands have to take the same approach as Anheuser-Busch. They need to set the operational standard for the entire supply chain by saying this is what is acceptable and if you’re not on board, we will know. That’s true transparency and accountability.

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