What are Digital Product Passports and why are we going to hear a lot more about them?
On March 30th the EU launched a proposal for the Ecodesign for Sustainable Products Regulation which will lead to manufacturers being required to create and maintain Digital Product Passports (DPPs) for all their products. Following the battery sector pilot, the priority sectors will be electronics, textiles, furniture and construction. The DPP will contain product information, including a unique product identifier and image, and be accessible via a data carrier e.g. QR code.
We all agree that we need to make more sustainable choices in our personal lives and for the businesses or public sector organisations for whom we work. But how do we do this when the information provided by suppliers to help choose the right product is incomplete, sometimes out of date, perhaps unverified or even misleading? One large retailer recently stated that 70% of the products that they sold had something wrong or missing with the information supplied!
You can’t make a sustainable choice without the right information and the ability to compare apples with apples measured against an agreed product standard. The European Union is taking on this challenge as a part of its broader European Green Deal which seeks to drive a circular economy. To achieve this, relevant product information is needed, not just at the point of purchase, but across the supply-chain and throughout the entire product lifecycle.
EU proposal for the Ecodesign for Sustainable Products Regulation (for further reading you can download the documents here) leads to manufacturers being required to create and maintain Digital Product Passports (DPPs) for all their products. The DPP will contain product information, including a unique product identifier and image, and be accessible via a data carrier e.g. QR code. The requirements are listed below in more detail.
Requirements for Digital Product Passports
- It shall be connected through a data carrier to a unique product identifier.
- The data carrier shall be physically present on the product, its packaging or on documentation accompanying the product.
- The data carrier and the unique product identifier shall comply with standard (‘ISO/IEC’) 15459:2015.
- All information included in the product passport shall be based on open standards, developed with an interoperable format and shall be machine-readable, structured, and searchable.
- The information included in the product passport shall refer to the product model, batch, or item.
- The access to information included in the product passport shall be free to consumers, and members of the supply-chain based on respective access rights. Approved national authorities will also have access to facilitate product verification
So whilst the concept has been landed, much work has to be completed before DPPs become reality. Each product sector will need to agree the type of product information that goes in the passports, with a close link to existing product standards. It is currently thought that the priority sectors will be ready in 2024, which means that product manufacturers in these sectors should be thinking about the process by which they will create their digital passports in the next few months
Complex sector example
There is a standardised way to calculate the Product Environmental Footprint (PEF) in the EU today, but it is not sufficient to meet the complex product variations needed for the DPP in some sectors. The DPP will need the environmental footprint of each specific variant. It will also need the specific image for each variant. This is because it is intended that the DPP becomes part of the tender or offer documentation. This becomes a real challenge for the furniture sector:
Given this level of complexity it is difficult to find a workable solution across the supply-chain, without connecting supplier and retailer systems. This is where the Xeris business model sits. We have a cloud platform called X-TRADE that connects to manufacturer systems, structures their product information in line with GS1 principles and any required industry standard; and then tailors that information to meet the bespoke needs of the retailer’s system; connecting to their systems. Finally, we automate the entire process. It is the ability to have manufacturer structured data that enables innovations such as digital product passports to become workable solutions because we can configure the products at the variant level of detail.
In the below example, by being able to configure the products, we cover all the variants of the product. We have also collected all the data on the fabric options, so this original model of 26 variants can also be sold in 101,552 variants. Each variant identified by a unique GTIN number which is generated on demand. This example model also has Nordic Ecolabelling and has an EPD. To combine this data we use a GMN - Global Model Number
In terms of images, we can use a 3D object to create all the variant specific images that the digital passport requires.
As X-TRADE links digitally to EPD Norway, we can now combine the product information at variant level, variant image and EPD data to create a digital product passport with a QR code.
Not all industry sectors have the same level of variant complexity as furniture. But supplying information in the right structure to industry portals or to meet the specific needs of each individual customer, creates its own complexities. These are currently being managed manually by manufacturers, and it is therefore extremely challenging to ensure they each have up-to-date accurate information in the format that portals and customers require.
Structured shareable product information is a prerequisite for a circular economy. There is still a lot of work to be done before functioning digital product passports are a reality in the EU’s prioritised industries, but the technology is available, and the early adopters are starting to explore solutions right now
Xeris is applying for EU projects related to this development and invites manufacturers to participate jointly with us.
For further reading we recommend GS1’s: ‘EU Digital Product Passport: Time To Act.’