In today’s world, environmental, social, and governance initiatives are accelerating, becoming a criterion for businesses seeking investments from socially conscious investors. As a result, companies have begun to invest billions of dollars in environmental, social, and governance (ESG) initiatives to address wider societal concerns than simply bottom-line profitability. The importance of ESG in these times cannot be overstated, as there is a need to raise awareness of global social and economic inequality and develop effective governance frameworks to address these issues.
Adoption of blockchain technology can be very beneficial in promoting ESG initiatives by improving overall decentralized infrastructure and, in the long run, making these initiatives digitized and automated. For example, a recent report from Banking America with predictions for 2022, confirmed that one of the biggest trends in corporate America is ESG: “Nine in ten banks are paying attention to ESG and one in two would change parts or all of their business in response to new regulations. But nearly one in five, or 17%, says regulations won’t ever be put forth, a dangerous assumption given SEC chair Gensler’s public comments to the contrary.” It seems so-called ‘ESG risk’ is a real concern, and not just for corporate America.
In this article, the aim is to look at various pain points surrounding emerging ESG initiatives that blockchain technology can help solve. While at the same time aware of the fact there’s no unified definition, which means the ESG label is used in a variety of ways. The second layer of complexity to this whole discussion is that the leading blockchain technology, Bitcoin has itself been criticized on ESG criteria, particularly regarding its high energy use. Indeed, a joint letter to leading US congressional representatives, from a whole host of national and international organizations, pointed to the importance of considering ESG when looking at the regulation for crypto to address “the real negative climate and environmental justice effects, which merit close attention by policymakers.”
The role of Bitcoin in energy consumption
Bitcoin as the first blockchain employs a proof-of-work consensus that necessitates a significant amount of energy. According to reports, bitcoin mining consumes more than 100 terawatt-hours (TWh) of electricity per year, enough to power an entire country. For example, Scotland has a population of just over five million and requires 25 TWh of electrical energy each year. It’s argued that the energy requirements of bitcoin mining have hampered the adoption of blockchain technology, as skeptics believe Bitcoin pollutes the environment, generating high carbon emissions year after year. While this is partially correct, BigONE believes these figures have been misinterpreted.
According to a Cambridge Center for Alternative Finance (CCAF) report, 76% of proof-of-work miners worldwide use renewable energy, and renewable energy powers 39% of total proof-of-work mining. Looking at these statistics, it is clear that over time, Bitcoin miners will increasingly resort to using renewable energy that has much less impact on the environment when mining Bitcoins. In addition, current estimates show that Bitcoin’s energy consumption will reduce over time, after peaking in the next decade. As crypto guru Nic Carter said in a Twitter reply thread to the October 2021 protest letter to US politicians: “Miners also participate in demand response, meaning they aren’t online when the grid is overburdened. Their presence dramatically improves economics for renewables and does not compete with households during scarcity events.” Furthermore, given the recent crackdown on miners in China, experts believe that energy consumption in Bitcoin mining will be significantly reduced, allowing for the adoption of blockchain technology in ESG initiatives.
ESG initiatives helped by blockchain technology
Blockchain technology can be a valuable tool in mitigating environmental issues such as climate change and carbon emissions. BigONE would look at some aspects of ESG initiatives that can be improved further by blockchain technology, such as:
- Improving supply chain traceability and efficiency: Blockchain technology has the potential to improve supply chain traceability, an issue that has come to the fore with the global impact of COVID-19 on logistics. At another level blockchain technology is a distributed ledger technology that can protect important company data from hacking because data is stored in a decentralized manner. This has a significant application in the food industry. Consumers’ demand for ethically sourced products has increased, particularly in the food industry. Users can use blockchain technology to trace the supply chain of these products and determine whether they are safe for consumption.
As a result, blockchain technology improves the environment for suppliers, distributors, transporters, and retailers by making supply chains more efficient. In 2018 a report on ‘The Economic Impact Of Smart Ledgers On Word Trade’ estimated the potential impact of blockchain technology worldwide to be “anything from a ‘modest’ rise in global trade of $35 billion per annum to perhaps as much as $140 billion.” Indeed, as global logistics has been hit by a squeeze in the supply of containers, the report estimated that using blockchain could be reduced by $46 per container. Meanwhile, BMW is using blockchain to “ensure the traceability of components and raw materials in multi-stage international supply chains.”
- Combating climate change: With the introduction of blockchain technology, the use of renewable energy can be expanded, potentially leading to a reduction in carbon emissions. Additionally, blockchain technology can be used to enable carbon offset, a way to compensate for emissions by funding an equivalent carbon dioxide saving elsewhere. Companies can use blockchain to offset their carbon footprint by investing in sustainable environmental projects.
To put this in context, the Carbon Offsets to Alleviate Poverty organization has begun accepting cryptocurrency donations to increase the availability of carbon offsets. When asked about the impact of blockchain technology in combating climate change, Adelyn Zhou, the chief marketing officer of Chainlink Labs, said, “While many people are voluntarily altering their consumption habits to combat climate change, a global shift in consumption will likely require significant incentive changes to drive sustainable behavior.
Self-executing contracts enabled by a combination of blockchains and oracle networks that pull data from the real world can automate incentive systems to directly reward practices that help our environment.” Zhou points to the Green World Campaign and Cornell University who in partnership are developing smart contracts that will reward people who successfully regenerate tracts of land by increasing tree cover, improving soil, and implementing other restorative agricultural practices. “When Chainlink oracles pull-proof of land improvement (via satellite imagery) onto the blockchain, it triggers the smart contract to release a payout. With this system, land stewards can quickly and efficiently receive their rewards,” Zhou confirmed.
- Standardized ESG reporting: BigONE also believes that blockchain technology can improve the current reporting standards for ESG initiatives. One of the most severe issues with ESG initiatives is a lack of accountability, as no mandated reporting standards exist. This can be addressed by implementing blockchain technology, which increases transparency and consistency associated with blockchain reporting frameworks and standards. According to Alberto Saavedra, in an article in Advance ESG, precise and timely information is required to allow for periodic adjustments to assure the company’s ESG goals are being met. “The verification of the accuracy of this information is crucial. And it is exceedingly complex when the supply chains cross multiple geopolitical boundaries. Blockchain, a relatively new technology known best for cryptocurrency, can play a key role,” Saavedra confirmed.
BigONE’s support for ESG
We also believe it would be counter-productive to focus on the narrow argument about Bitcoin’s energy consumption while overlooking the numerous benefits this integration can provide. Instead, we should focus on the fact that blockchain technology has already played a critical business role, particularly in the finance and gaming industries. As a proponent of ESG initiatives BigONE believes more sustainable infrastructure can be put in place with the incorporation of blockchain technology, improving the overall positive outcomes of such initiatives. In addition, blockchain technology can enhance governance frameworks and sustain value by providing much-needed transparency and verification processes.
As a testament to its ESG credentials on January 7 BigONE Exchange listed an exciting new crypto project aiming to grow solar power using its innovative tokenomics. It’s making use of the exchange’s new automated market maker (AMM) service to give a share of dividends to each user who contributes to the liquidity pool, to ensure a successful listing. The liquidity mining-based system will place the funds in the funding pool according to the AMM’s algorithm to provide greater liquidity for each market. The Light DeFi’s own crypto network fee is financing the development of a new solar power plant in northeast Brazil.
With an estimated annual revenue of $500,000, and around 80 jobs in the first part of the project, work has already started on building the solar power plant in São Luis do Curu, using local labor as part of their wider commitment to sustainability. BigONE chairman Anndy Lian joined Light DeFi as an investor and advisor to help lead their ESG (Environmental, Social, and Corporate Governance) and blockchain efforts. It was Light DeFi’s community that was crucial to bringing him to the sustainable project in blockchain technology. Through a tweet in which blockchain expert Anndy Lian wrote that to save the planet, the first step would be to join in the clean energy space, Light DeFi’s community responded with many of the community replied by writing about Light DeFi’s revolutionary project. BigONE chairman Anndy Lian said: “To deliver on the ambitious targets to reduce emissions, to deliver on social justice and governance, we need to use blockchain solutions in order to provide data accuracy and transparency. Individuals, and the public and private sector need to work together to meet climate goals, and cryptocurrency and smart contracts running on the blockchain provide necessary infrastructure from micro incentives through to macro tracking.”
Anndy Lian is an early blockchain adopter and experienced serial entrepreneur who is known for his work in the government sector. He is a best selling book author- “NFT: From Zero to Hero” and “Blockchain Revolution 2030”.
Currently, he is appointed as the Chief Digital Advisor at Mongolia Productivity Organization, championing national digitization. Prior to his current appointments, he was the Chairman of BigONE Exchange, a global top 30 ranked crypto spot exchange and was also the Advisory Board Member for Hyundai DAC, the blockchain arm of South Korea’s largest car manufacturer Hyundai Motor Group. Lian played a pivotal role as the Blockchain Advisor for Asian Productivity Organisation (APO), an intergovernmental organization committed to improving productivity in the Asia-Pacific region.
An avid supporter of incubating start-ups, Anndy has also been a private investor for the past eight years. With a growth investment mindset, Anndy strategically demonstrates this in the companies he chooses to be involved with. He believes that what he is doing through blockchain technology currently will revolutionise and redefine traditional businesses. He also believes that the blockchain industry has to be “redecentralised”.