Leanne Kemp, Chief Executive Officer and Founder, Everledger, United Kingdom at the World Economic Forum - Annual Meeting of the New Champions in Tianjin, People's Republic of China 2016. Copyright by World Economic Forum / Sikarin Thanachaiary

Leanne Kemp, chief executive officer and founder of Everledger, “had a vision of a world where diamonds could be tracked from the source of mine to the retailer, using blockchain, AI and other emerging technologies,” the company recently noted.

Now, four years later, Everledger has more than two million diamonds on blockchain, “and has expanded to gemstones, fine wines and other high-value industries,” the company said. Kemp is a member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Blockchain Business Council and serves as co-chair with the World Trade Board’s Sustainable Trade Action Group. Kemp is also a member of the IBM Blockchain Platform Board of Advisors.

Here, Kemp discusses what’s driving the demand for blockchain technology, how it is used in the diamond industry and how other segments can benefit from it.

WWD: What exactly is “conscious consumerism” and why is it increasing in importance?

Leanne Kemp: Conscious consumerism refers to the practice of exclusively purchasing products that come from sustainable sources, despite the greater cost. The driving force behind the movement is the desire to mitigate the negative impacts of consumerism on society and the environment.

In recent years, sustainability has become a central deciding factor in the buying process. Many more consumers are starting to ask questions such as: “Where does this product come from?” and, most importantly, “How can we be sure?” The Everledger platform allows just that, by integrating all stakeholders in complex supply chains on a blockchain-enabled platform, we enable more insight, transparency and, thus, better consumer choices.

WWD: What role does transparency play in conscious consumerism?

L.K.: The issue lies in verifying sustainability claims, and that’s exactly what the Everledger platform is all about. If the entire supply chain journey of a product is transparent — from raw materials through manufacturing, transport and sale — the end consumer can have visibility on a company’s social and environmental practices.

The Everledger blockchain platform creates secure and permanent digital records of an asset’s origin, characteristics and transfer of ownership across its lifetime. The resulting transparency helps industries respond to society’s growing expectations surrounding sustainable, verifiable sourcing.

WWD: How does Everledger work? And what was the impetus behind launching it with diamonds?

L.K.: The Everledger platform harnesses the benefit of blockchain in tandem with other technologies, such as AI and intelligent labeling to create a secure and permanent digital record of an asset’s origin, characteristics and ownership across its lifetime. This benefits industries and companies that face strict requirements to evidence the provenance and traceability of their products, as well as consumers who want to ensure they’re purchasing something that’s been developed in a sustainable manner.

I’ve been involved in the diamond and jewelry industries for more than 15 years, and in that time I’ve seen the importance of building transparent, ethical supply chains that allow us to track a diamond or gem from source to retailer.

Traditionally, items of value were recorded on paper, leaving them vulnerable to value manipulation, fraud, theft and other unethical practices. I realized we needed a digital record, and this coincided with the advent of blockchain, artificial intelligence and Internet of Things technologies that made it possible.

WWD: How does blockchain-powered technology such as Everledger extend into other categories of luxury goods?

L.K.: Though to-date we’ve focused primarily on the diamond, gemstone, luxury goods and wine industries, there’s no reason the same symphony of technologies can’t be used to track the supply chain journey of other goods — whether that’s a work of art or the metals in the battery of an electric vehicle.

Our blockchain-enabled platform brings clarity and confidence to any marketplace wherein transparency matters most. It benefits any industry that faces strict requirements to evidence the provenance and traceability of products.

WWD: Is there a role for blockchain in the resale market? Would an app such as Everledger be used to track the history of a luxury handbag that is sold on peer-to-peer sites, for example?

L.K.: In technical terms, it’s certainly possible that blockchain could be used to track transactions in the secondary market. The issue at present is that the supply chain journey of most products is not logged on a blockchain. The more luxury goods tracked from conception using a blockchain-based platform, the more feasible it becomes to apply the technology to transactions between consumers in the resale market.

This is definitely something we would like to see, as this is inherent to our commitment to a more sustainable economy and more responsible business practices.