May 27, 2021

Bitcoin Alternative Chia Decimates Hard Disc Drive Supply

Elise Leise
3 min
Bitcoin’s ‘eco-friendly’ alternative, Chia, driving the demand behind a global shortage of hard discs, straining supply chains, manufacturers, and big tech

When a new eco-friendly cryptocurrency called Chia launched at the start of May, its executives claimed that the coin was the future of crypto. ‘Chia is what Bitcoin would look like’, said incoming board member David Frazee, ‘if it was designed with knowledge from the last 13 years’. 


Chia, unlike Bitcoin, doesn’t require vast amounts of computing power to crack complicated algorithmic problems—a process called ‘proof-of-work’. Instead, it relies on ‘proof of time and space’, in which coin distribution is based on owning a large number of hard drives or empty space. Theoretically, Chia should be the more environmentally-friendly option. 


Chia Demand Strains Supply Chain

But ambitious Chia farmers rushed to buy as many hard disc drives as possible. In mid-May—a mere two weeks ago—users had dedicated 3 million terabytes to farming Chia. Since then, that number has soared to over 12 million terabytes. Hard disc companies such as Seagate and Western Digital can’t ramp up their manufacturing operations quickly enough to meet demand. 


As a result, Chia has sparked a global hard disc shortage and disrupted the short-term supply chain. What’s more—and perhaps what’s more worrying to environmental warriors—chips wear out quickly when farming Chia. Usually, an SSD lasts over a decade; when plotting Chia, it may burn out in under six weeks. And though it’s too early to calculate the exact energy requirements of the ‘green’ Bitcoin, not everyone is convinced that Chia is any less wasteful. 


Indeed, some argue that Chia has replaced spending energy on computationally-intensive puzzles with spending energy on hardware. ‘This [cryptocurrency] results in mountains of electronic waste’, said Aron Peterson, a digital producer for the film industry. ‘Hard drives will fail faster and more often’. 


The Best Alternative to Bitcoin

Yet Chia president Gene Hoffman calls the cryptocurrency the best alternative currently on the market. Even if Facebook, Google, and Amazon were shut down, he explained, and humans devoted all 7 zettabytes of the world’s estimated disc space to farming Chia, the currency would still consume less energy than Bitcoin. 


Bitcoin, however, doesn’t set a high bar for sustainability. According to the Cambridge Bitcoin Electricity Consumption Index, the currency’s energy consumption surpasses that of entire countries, such as Sweden and Malaysia. As academics and environmental advocates have pointed out, such high computing costs don’t serve any of us in the long-term, much less align with ESG standards. 


To ensure environmental, social, and governmental sustainability, experts agree that we should analyse whether the wasted resources are worth the payoff. Over the next few weeks, market-savvy manufacturers will likely ramp up hard disc production—but does that mean they should? In farming Chia, or any such cryptocurrency, ‘[t]here are trade-offs involved’, says Michel Rauchs at the University of Cambridge. 


Still, Chia’s board claims the trade-offs are worth it. ‘Frankly’, Hoffman said, ‘a Tesla isn’t green compared to a bicycle’. He argues that Chia is still a vast improvement over Bitcoin, even if it has left a detritus of hard disc drives in its wake. Is it the future of crypto? That remains to be seen. Right now, Chia has proved itself no more green than its predecessors. 


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Jun 16, 2021

Gartner: Women in supply chain at five-year high

3 min
Overall percentage of women working in supply chain has risen, but concerns persist around declining representation in executive leadership

Women now represent a greater percentage of the supply chain workforce than at any other point in at least the past five years, according to a recent Gartner survey. 

The Women in Supply Chain Survey 2021, conducted by Gartner and Awesome, surveyed 223 supply chain organisations with more than $100m in annual revenue from February through to the end of March 2021.

Key takeaways 

  • Women represent 2% more of supply chain workforce than in 2020
  • Women now account for 42% of the workforce
  • Number of women in exec-level positions declined by 2%
  • Just 15% of top leadership are women (17% in 2020)
  • 84% of organisations say COVID-19 did not impact efforts to advance women

It found that women now represent two per cent more of the supply chain workforce than in 2020, accounting for 42%, compared with 39% last year. Dana Stiffler, Vice President Analyst with the Gartner Supply Chain practice, says the impact of COVID-19 on supply chain was significant, though different to other sectors. 

"Contrary to other industries, supply chain’s mission-criticality during the COVID-19 pandemic has meant that many sectors did not reduce their workforce, but rather continued to hire and even faced talent shortages, especially in the product supply chains," she said. "This resulted in many women not only standing their ground in supply chain organisations but increasing their representation in organisations. We also recorded a record number of specific commitments and supply chain-led actions and saw existing programs starting to pay off."

Gartner Women in Supply Chain Survey 2021
Women in Supply Chain Survey 2021


Supply chain still lacks women in executive leadership 

But the elephant in the boardroom remains. Though the figures present a positive step towards greater diversity and gender equality at all levels, the number of women in executive level positions declined by two per cent in the past year. Women represent just 15% of the upper echelons of supply chain leadership. Gartner did however record a rise in women at all other levels of leadership. 

The vast majority (84%) of organisations surveyed said the outbreak had no discernible impact on their ability to retain and advance women. But more than half (54%) admitted that retaining mid-career women was becoming increasingly difficult. A lack of career opportunities was cited as the biggest challenge to this, while other blamed a lack of development opportunities. 

Despite these challenges, companies of all sizes are becoming broadly better at gender diversity. Around a third more said they had a targeted initiative focused on attracting women and advancing their careers. 

Stiffler said a push towards measurable and formal initiatives is at least pointing in the right direction: “It's encouraging to see that the larger share of this jump was for more formal targets and specific goals on management scorecards. For these respondents, there is greater accountability for results — and we see the correlation with stronger representation and inclusion showing up in pipelines.” 

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