Business is Boring is a weekly podcast series presented by The Spinoff in association with Callaghan Innovation. In the pilot of a new monthly special, host Simon Pound speaks with Maria Slade, from the communications team at Callaghan Innovation, and Duncan Greive, managing editor at The Spinoff about business stories making the news that month. The chat will be available as both audio and a transcribed excerpt.
This month Simon, Maria, and Duncan talk about ethical fashion, e-bikes, and R&D tax credits.
Simon: Let’s talk about ethical fashion. Did you two see that news recently?
Duncan: The Tearfund report came out last week. It’s a kind of perennially scrutinised and sometimes controversial topic, but I think particularly for Trelise Cooper, who’s one of New Zealand fashion’s most storied names who received an F.
It’s five years to the day since Rana Plaza and that crystallised what had been a long rising accord of discontent about particularly fast fashion but also fashion more broadly and its impact on the world and its workers.
This kind of report and what it seeks to do it beyond essential for the world, whether this is the right way to do it is something to be discussed.
Maria: It’s been going for a few years and in past years the story was some of the big names like Karen Walker, who did participate but didn’t have some of the quite rigorous supply chain information that they needed. The story with them was they improved a lot over a couple of surveys. Some local fashion commentators really called Trelise Cooper to account this year.
The interesting thing is where it’s going to go from here, the whole traceability issue. Prior to Rana Plaza, in which over 1,100 people were killed, few of the global fashion companies made information about their supply chains publicly available. They’ve started to do that since then.
It’s quite interesting to see who rates and who doesn’t. You mentioned Trelise Cooper, well Zara actually gets an A- and you’d think with that sort of mass-fashion production they’d do quite badly.
Simon: They were one of the companies affected by the actual Rana Plaza collapse but it’s good that they addressed that.
Something that’s always go under my collar is as a society we have standards for how we expect clothing to be made and workers to be treated and so on and all of these things we have laws about here, but we’ve just externalised it by importing from overseas and not knowing.
Maria: I think that is set to change and technology is going to enable that change. At the moment the Tearfund report looks at things like whether they’ve go policies in place for things like forced and child labour, how much of the supply chain the company has actually traced, whether its doing any monitoring etc. but it’s all manually done. It’s easy to falsify that information.
The future is Blockchain. It’s a technology that’s pretty much made for addressing this kind of issue. A lot of people would say it’s the most disruptive technology of our time. People are saying in terms of finance it’s the biggest thing since the invention of double entry bookkeeping.
It’s basically a record book that everyone can see and no one can alter. It’s tamper-proof.
New information is added to a Blockchain only after a consensus is reached with all of the parties that are involved and hold the copies. Basically this means that even if you hacked into it you’d only get into one little bit of it, you wouldn’t be able to see the whole thing. It’s enabling trust through visibility.
A lot of Callaghan Innovation clients are looking at it. The thing that is exciting people the most is that it’s application in finance which is things like cryptocurrencies, Bitcoin, et cetera. It has applications on just about everything you can think of from smart energy systems through to safety.
It’s particularly useful for monitoring the movement of goods, because every transaction goes onto the ledger and every node in the system keeps a copy of every transaction and allows for instant access for information about a product’s origin.
It’s kind of mind-boggling and hard to get your head around but it’s got huge potential for verifying the provenance of goods.