Changing consumer behavior is a crucial part of saving the planet but, for those who want to do the right thing, it is often difficult to know what constitutes a sustainable product. Technology has a role to play here, as reflected in the number of initiatives that are now seeking to provide accurate, detailed information about the origins and supply chains of products.
Into this mix comes Almond. A key differentiator, says founder, Olly Bolton, is that most solutions are focused on a single item, whereas Almond works for products made up of multiple ingredients.
Whereas, say, Fishcoin is focused on transparency in seafood, Almond’s app provides details of each ingredient in a more complex consumer offering. The first working example of this is for organic sparkling water, FACT. A code on the inside of the ring pull reveals the story of the product’s ingredients and packaging when scanned with the Almond app, which is available on Apple iOS and Android.
As well as gaining transparency, the consumer earns crypto rewards that can be used for future purchases or, at a certain amount, cashed in via, at the outset, Paypal. For the FACT drinks, two pence is contributed from each sale to a reward pot. If, say, one in five codes are scanned to redeem this, then that would equate to a ten pence reward per drink for those that do. The brand gains anonymised information about the location of consumption of its product.
Consumption is the root cause of much of a person’s carbon footprint, says Bolton. Whereas other major contributors, transport and energy, are seeing a lot of innovation, this isn’t the case for consumption, he feels. Having founded a number of health drinks brands, including FACT, Bolton wanted to see how consumers could have a better understanding of responsible brands and the impact of their choices.
Almond effectively creates a “smart wallet”, he says, which will not only allow people to see information about what difference they are making but also about the Almond community as a whole, constituting a form of gamification.
These are early days and the community view is just one of a number of strands when it comes to Almond’s plans for its solution.
Firstly, Almond has a stated goal of supporting ten brands by March of next year and, says Bolton, is on course for this. The work with FACT has effectively been a Proof of Concept. There are discussions with, among others, retailers of clothing, cosmetics, fruit and electronic goods. By March 2023, Almond aims to support 15,000 brands.
Second, there is a plan to create the Almond Foundation, which will be a decentralised, not for profit body with a democratic constitution. The Foundation will create a charter that will include the criteria that brands, retailers and producers must meet to be selected. The legal status of the Foundation means it will be protected from acquisition, adds Bolton.
Each product will be tokenized and will have an Almond Matrix Code linked to a decentralised smart contract that will hold a percentage of the product’s wholesale value.
The distributed ledger technology selected to underpin Almond is Hedera’s Hashgraph, a blockchain-based platform. This was attractive, says Bolton, because it has much lower energy consumption than other platforms, which fits with Almond’s ethos, plus strong security and governance (it is governed by a council of members), while being cost-effective.
Customers will be able to see the product supply trail with data such as production dates, product composition, and CO2 footprint. They will also be able to learn about the brand’s story and the people behind it. Bolton foresees moving away from scanning via the app – “a big friction point” – towards automatic activation at the point of sale.
Brands and their suppliers will be required to validate and geo-time stamp each step of the production process on the Almond blockchain.
Also planned for the app are active measures to increase recycling rates and encourage more responsible consumption, including product locators, personalised recommendations, and an online store to buy Almond accredited goods in the customer’s region (or via third-party online stores). For recycling, Almond is talking to a vegetarian shoe brand about the feasibility of consumers sending back their products for repair or recycling at end of life to earn additional Almond credits.
Each user’s personal impact will be measured on the app’s dashboard. High scoring individuals will gain access to a wide range of offers and discounts.
As well as exchanging Almond tokens, consumers will be able to use them to make charitable donations or will be able to hold on to them. In the latter case, the value of the tokens would appreciate over time if the Almond economy grows (so unlike most crypto-currencies that see their value principally determined by market speculation).
A green paper, due in the next week or so, will set out more detail around the above and will constitute a discussion document for feedback from any interested parties.
Almond has to date been self-funded. A $4,000,000 token pre-sale is planned for March 2019 aimed at strategic investors and partner brands. An initial public sale will follow as the Almond ecosystem starts to grow (planned for the second half of 2019).
What were the drivers for Bolton behind the launch of Almond? First, having built brands, he says he was aware of the challenges, particularly around communicating sustainable practices.
Second, his involvement with B Corps in the UK – the certification programme for companies that balance purpose and profit (2700 certified at the last count) – brought discussions with others about the challenges. There is an amazing community, he says, but as the IPCC report so urgently showed, there is a great need to scale up.
And third, at a more personal level, there was the birth of his son a year and a half ago. What will we say to his generation, Bolton asks, in 20 years or so if we haven’t done everything to try to counter the climate crisis.