There’s a fashion industry shake-up on the horizon — are you ready for it? In March of 2022, the European Commission announced plans to roll out ‘digital product passports’ as part of a push towards creating a circular economy for consumer goods. And it’s going to be huge.

Since the Checkpoint Systems team has plenty of experience implementing systems that integrate intelligent labels with software solutions, we thought we’d write a beginner’s guide to digital product passports. So here it is! Nothing but the FAQs and all in plain English!

What is an EU digital product passport?

“Digital product passport” (DPP) is a fancy name for a set of easily accessed data that gives consumers and businesses information about your product’s environmental impact. Each DPP gives consumers full transparency over the product’s life cycle, environmental impact, and information that could help to repair or recycle the garment responsibly.

Digital product passports are part of the wider Circular Economy Action Plan which encourages brands to make more sustainable, traceable, circular products. The Ecodesign for Sustainable Products Regulation (ESPR) proposal gives firm guidelines on ecodesign for specific product groups like textiles and fashion so brands can make meaningful progress towards sustainability.

How do product passports work?

In theory, you can use any method for your digital product passport that provides an easily accessible link to information, but the most popular consideration at present is QR code labels.

Read more: Demystifying QR codes

  • Start by partnering with a specialist portal provider to help you collect, track, and store product information securely. You could also develop a solution in-house if you’ve got the technical prowess and resources. You’d then turn your data into item-specific QR codes, ready to apply to your garments.
  • Once your portal is set up, you need to get those unique codes onto your garments or products and into your backend/production software. This is where you’d pass your SKUs, QR codes, and variable data to a vertically integrated, intelligent label expert like us.

We’ve got tonnes of experience with automated data flow and are well-versed in working with different SaaS providers, so it’s no trouble to integrate systems and processes.

  • Now you’ve taken care of the software, it’s time to get those codes onto your garments by exploring labeling options that’ll stay with the product for its entire lifetime. For example, we can weave your DPP QR code into a woven label or print it on a care label — it can be as designed just as you like. This way, the garment carries its information even after the hang tag has been pulled off, which is a requirement in the legislation.
  • Your customer scans the QR code and gets transparent product information, whether buying first, second, or even third-hand. For example, your DPP will include a complete value chain, details on the raw materials used, recycling info, and details on production. The whole shebang in just one scan.

What’s the benefit of a digital product passport?

According to the European Commission, the EU’s consumption of textiles has the fourth highest impact on climate change behind essentials like food, mobility, and housing.

Things get worse closer to home — an environmental audit by UK Parliament found less than 1% of clothing material is recycled at the end of its life.

With all that in mind, the EC’s digital product passport initiative benefits the environment and the fashion industry in three main ways:

1)   Encourages a circular economy

By rolling out new consumer goods and textiles regulations, the European Commission can encourage a circular garment lifecycle by giving detailed info on product materials. The information on how to recycle, reuse, and repair will be easier to access as a result.

2)   Cracks down on greenwashing

Digital Product Passports could potentially eradicate greenwashing by encouraging brands to be more transparent at each point of the supply making it easier for external auditors to measure their efforts and progress.

3)   Delivers wins on a global scale

The European Commission has predicted that the impacts of the DPP as part of the wider Circular Economy Action Plan will benefit value chains globally because all products on the EU market will be affected.

When is the digital product passport deadline?

The Circular Economy Action Plan covers various product groups, and the first batch is still in consultation. So, what information does your digital product passport need to contain? The short answer is we don’t know yet! But we do know that textiles will be a key consideration.

The European Commission plans to stage the rollout, so we’re not sure exactly when we will all find out more, but there’s plenty you can do in the meantime. You can start by exploring potential solutions for data collection and storage.

Once you’ve nailed down the data side of things, our experts can step in to talk you through your labeling options. However you want to traverse the process, we’ll do our best to find a solution that works for you — get in touch with our team and ask us how.