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Understanding the Digital Product Passport

The introduction of the Digital Product Passport is to sustainability what GDPR is to data privacy. Its impact and role will encompass environmental accountability and sustainable development, providing a product information narrative of its life from beginning to end.

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In an era where regulatory compliance is becoming more stringent and extensive, sustainability is becoming as significant as technology-driven customer convenience. That’s why the introduction of the Digital Product Passport (DPP) is about to revolutionise industries. By 2024-25, DPPs will be used in key markets, including textiles and batteries, marking a sea change in environmentally responsible business practices. This insights article examines how this emerging norm will impact manufacturers, distributors, and retailers. It looks at the pivotal role Product Information Management (PIM) software will play in this sustainability evolution.

What is a Digital Product Passport?

The European Health and Digital Executive Agency (HaDEA) calls it a tool to “…enable sharing of key product related information that are essential for products’ sustainability and circularity.” This extensive digital record will detail a product’s entire lifecycle, to promote transparency and informed consumerism.

Why was the Digital Product Passport created?

It aims to collect product and its supply chain data to increase transparency and accountability, so not only does it focus on environmental preservation, but also on operational activities, influencing everything from supply chain management to marketing. This information will develop the circular economy by tracking a product’s lifecycle from start to end, including its origin, recyclability, and reusability.

This level of detail adds a layer of complexity to sustainability calculations. A product may well include generational recycled materials, so determining its footprint involves numerous data points. This only accentuates the need for a product information management system which can manage this complexity efficiently.

Sustainable Production

Transition to the circular economy in terms of material and energy efficiency, longer product lives, and optimal product use

Circular Business Models and Value Creation

It facilitates easy data management, enabling users to track product lifecycles, modify data, and create relationships between products.

More Informed Customer Decision-Making

Especially when given sustainability information which may impact their choice.

Verifiable Compliance with Legal Obligations

As it is a record of the compliance with specified standards, giving auditors the full information needed to determine this.

How does the Digital Product Passport work?

DPP is a product-specific data set, used to structure the disclosure requirements of products. For example, a consumer would scan a QR code embedded into the label of an item and be immediately redirected to the linked Digital Product Passport to view data on the product’s sustainability credentials, such as the sourcing, material composition, manufacturing processes, repair, and disassembly options, as well as how components can be recycled.

Take battery manufacturing as an example: From 2026, all industrial and electric vehicle batteries will need a Digital Product Passport. The information will primarily link to safety requirements and targets for recycled content. Additionally, the following will be obligatory:

  • Material sourcing
  • Carbon footprint
  • Percentages of recycled materials
  • Battery durability
  • Repurposing and recycling guidelines

What and who is affected by DPPs?

DPP legislation isn’t just box-ticking in the compliance column. It joins established frameworks like the SASB and GRI, requiring businesses to re-evaluate their legacy data management processes and methods. The Digital Product Passport will come into law for EU market access very soon, so a mindful and rigorous approach to data handling and reporting is no longer optional.

The EU is aiming to initially implement DPP legislation during 2026 across three industries: apparel, batteries and consumer electronics. In due course, the EU plan is to roll out DPPs across prioritised industries and product categories:

      • Textiles
      • Information Communication Technology
      • Furniture
      • Plastics
      • Construction materials
      • Chemicals 

A few examples of the stakeholders affected:

Supply chain: transparency means ethical sourcing and production methods to make it easier for regulators to verify sustainability claims.

Marketing: no more ambiguous sustainability claims, or claims lacking concrete evidence of eco-conscious practices. Discerning consumers will make a choice based on verifiable facts.

eCommerce: Compliance with new standards will inevitably mean managing an expanded dataset, unifying disparate data pieces, and increasing data granularity. This has implications for the number of staff needed to handle this increased workload.

Customers: expanded product story, including ethical sourcing and verifiable data so that businesses satisfy customers, build trust, and generate new revenue opportunities.

Preparing for this change

PIM power for Digital Product Passport quality

Many companies have identified the need for the most up-to-date PIM solutions, such as those with flexible data models required to satisfy the growing demands for transparency at every stage of the product life cycle.

This proactive stance towards DPPs demands a robust foundation, and PIM equips organisations with tools to create streamlined and accurate product data systems. Poor-quality or fragmented information hinders compliance, so investing in a product information management (PIM) solution supports your business in collecting, and accessing the data needed. Putting this plan in place today avoids any roadblocks tomorrow.  

Organisation, auditing, and governance: putting your data in order

The main aim of digital product passports is product data transparency – this means starting your preparations with clarifying what supply chain data you already have and what you lack. Next is determining whether that data is robust enough to bear the scrutiny of the regulations (such as how raw materials sourced, or carbon emissions from manufacturing). Data governance is a must.

Engaging internal stakeholders

Making sure all internal teams are prepared is a high priority as it will significantly affect various parts of your organisation. This means sharing as much information as possible throughout the organisation. Everyone has access to updated information to help the business move towards data transparency.  

Naturally, it depends on factors like sector, business size, or product types and range, but if relevant parties are aware and informed about DPPs, the risk of a siloed and fragmented approach to fulfilment is minimised. 

Final words

Digital Product Passports will redefine how product information is managed and shared. It’s likely that future regulations in targeted product categories will be implemented: for example, the Eco-design for Sustainable Products. These will be aligned with the EU Circular Economy Action Plan.

Planning and implementing a DPP strategy gives you a competitive edge because solid guarantees of sustainability backed by data from digital product passports possess product information whose claims on sustainability are quantifiable, verifiable and, therefore, trustworthy.

For expert guidance on preparing for DPPs and selecting and implementing the PIM solutions best for your needs, get in touch with us at Start with Data. Equip yourselves for sustainability compliance in your product information management so you’re ready to not only compete now but thrive well into the future.

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