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In this article, we delve into the transformative concept of Digital Product Passports (DPP), highlighting their potential to enhance transparency, sustainability, and trust in various industries – from consumer goods and electronics to the automotive industry. We explore the opportunities and challenges associated with DPP, showcasing how this innovative technology empowers consumers, drives responsible business practices, and paves the way for a more sustainable future.

The European Commission introduced the European Green Deal in March 2022 as a plan for sustainable development and growth. The Green Deal aims to reduce CO2 emissions by 55% by 2030 compared to the levels of 1990 and to make Europe the first climate-neutral continent by 2050. The European Commission proposed several initiatives to promote a circular economy and reduce waste, which covers the entire life cycle of a product.  

Just imagine our world economy is only 9.1% circular, leaving a massive “Circularity Gap” – The Circularity Gap Report 

Such initiatives aim to increase the use of materials within the EU economy and reduce waste. One of the solutions to achieve this objective is the introduction of a Digital Product Passport (DPP). Digital product passports are an effective way to manage product development and improve communication between stakeholders. They help to keep up with the progress and ensure that everyone is on the same track and that the product meets sustainable goals and customer expectations. In this article, we uncover what the digital product passport (DPP) is, how it will influence the industries, its benefits and limitations, and how blockchain technology will help achieve the goals.

 

What is a digital product passport?

Digital Product Passport

Digital Product Passport (DPP) is a well-organized repository of all product-related data from its inception to the end of its life cycle. Under the European Commission’s proposal, the DPP implementation will facilitate information sharing for every product available in the EU market across the entire value chain. In other words, a Digital Product Passport is an electronic record that contains all the essential information about a particular product. This information can include everything from its design and manufacturing details to ownership history and end-of-life disposal instructions.

But what sets Digital Product Passports apart from traditional records is their ability to be updated throughout the entire life cycle of a product. For example, when you buy a new smartphone, it will come with its own digital passport. As you use your phone, this passport will track important data, such as software updates and repairs made under warranty.

But Digital Product Passports will not be limited to consumer electronics. First of all, a new requirement will affect such industries as textile, construction, plastics, automotive, and chemicals. By 2026, the representatives of these industries are to implement the DPP solution.

The European Commission has proposed the Digital Product Passport (DPP) as a vital tool to bridge the gap between ambitious targets and the practical implementation of circularity. Companies preparing for the Digital Product Passports will be well-positioned for tomorrow's circular economy. By enhancing transparency and traceability, this solution will enable companies to build trust with consumers and stakeholders, which will help to drive sustainable and responsible practices in the industry. Waiting until the legislation is in place risks putting companies at a disadvantage and missing out on the many benefits that come with embracing sustainability. Niklas Malmros, CEO of Solutions Group at Sigma Technology Group

The potential applications of Digital Product Passports

Digital Product Passports have the potential to revolutionize the way we track and manage products throughout their life cycle. One of the main applications of Digital Product Passports is to enhance product transparency, which can help build consumer trust. By providing detailed information about a product origin, materials used, ethical sourcing practices, sustainability information, and more, consumers can make more informed purchasing decisions. For example, in the luxury goods sector, companies like LVMH and Richemont have been collaborating on a blockchain-based platform called Aura Blockchain Consortium. This platform aims to provide Digital Product Passports for high-end goods to ensure their authenticity and provide customers with information about the product origin and history. Consumers can access this information by scanning a QR code, tapping an NFC tag, or using other digital means, fostering transparency and consumer engagement.

Another application of Digital Product Passports is in improving supply chain management. With a digital passport for each individual product, manufacturers and suppliers can better track where materials are coming from and ensure, for example, that they are ethically sourced. This level of transparency can also help companies identify areas for improvement within their supply chains and work towards greater sustainability. As an easy example, stakeholders in the supply chain, including manufacturers, distributors, and retailers, can have real-time visibility into product movements, inventory levels, and other relevant data. This visibility facilitates more accurate demand forecasting, optimized inventory management, and efficient supply chain planning.

Digital Product Passports could also play an important role in reducing counterfeiting and fraud. By using blockchain technology to verify authenticity at every step of the supply chain, it becomes much harder for counterfeit goods to enter the market undetected. In addition, digital passports could be used to authenticate ownership or prove provenance when reselling high-value items like art or jewelry. There are countless potential applications for Digital Product Passports across various industries. From enhancing transparency and traceability to improving sustainability practices and combating fraud, this technology has the potential to transform how we think about products throughout their entire life cycle.

 

Question to the expert:

  • Are Swedish companies and businesses ready and have enough time to establish the DPP practice?

    Niklas: While the readiness of Swedish companies and businesses to establish Digital Product Passport practices may vary, the evolving landscape of sustainability and regulatory frameworks calls for a proactive approach. The potential benefits help them assess their preparedness already now and allocate resources to adapt to emerging requirements. Swedish companies can position themselves at the forefront of responsible and accountable product supply chains, fostering a greener and more sustainable future.

    And we at Sigma Technology, together with the Interior Cluster and Nordic Blockchain Alliance, have already worked out a framework on how companies can work and prepare for implementing a dynamic Digital Passport that follows the product along the life cycle and can be adjusted as more changes and details are introduced to legislation.

    Besides, we are collaborating with Linnaeus University in Växjö, where students are making a thesis on the Digital Product Passport. Sigma Technology and Interior Cluster are currently also in dialogue with companies on how they are preparing for the legislation and exploring potential prototypes and how blockchain technology can enable Digital Product Passports. 

How Digital Product Passports will work

Digital product passports rely on a combination of technologies and processes to create a secure and verifiable record of a product information. The implementation typically involves the following components:

  1. Digital product passports rely on a combination of technologies and processes to create a secure and verifiable record of product information. The implementation typically involves the following components: At each stage of the supply chain, relevant data about the product is captured and stored. This can include information about manufacturing, sourcing, ingredients, quality inspections, certifications, and more.
  2. The data can be collected through various means, such as manual entry, barcode scanners, RFID/NFC readers, or integration with existing systems like ERP. To uniquely identify each product, a digital identifier is assigned. This identifier can take the form of a serial number, QR code, barcode, or RFID tag. It acts as a reference point for accessing the product information stored in a database or blockchain.
  3. The captured product data is stored in a centralized database or blockchain platform. The choice of storage depends on factors like security requirements, scalability, and the need for decentralized consensus. These technologies ensure that the data is securely stored and accessible when needed.
  4. To access and verify the authenticity of a product, consumers, retailers, or other stakeholders can use a designated interface, such as a mobile application or web portal. They input the digital identifier, such as scanning a QR code, which retrieves and displays the relevant product information from the database or blockchain. Verification mechanisms can be employed to ensure the integrity and authenticity of the retrieved data.
  5. As the product moves through the supply chain, authorized parties (e.g., manufacturers, distributors, retailers) can update the digital product passport by adding new data or modifying existing information. This is typically done through secure interfaces or APIs that interact with the database or blockchain. Security measures are implemented to safeguard the integrity and confidentiality of the data. These measures may include encryption, digital signatures, access controls, and audit trails. Blockchain technology, in particular, provides inherent security through its decentralized and immutable nature, ensuring that data cannot be retroactively altered.

 

The role of blockchain technology in creating and verifying Digital Product Passports

Blockchain technology plays a crucial role in the creation and verification of Digital Product Passports, providing essential benefits such as security, transparency, and immutability.

When a product is generated, its unique identity is securely recorded on a blockchain network using cryptographic algorithms. This creates an unchangeable digital record that cannot be modified or deleted without authorization from all parties involved. Additional information, such as manufacturing processes, supply chain events, and certifications, can be added to this record as the product moves through its life cycle.

Smart contracts, which are self-executing programs, enable manufacturers to automate tracking and verification processes for their products throughout their entire life cycle. These contracts automatically execute predefined conditions when specific criteria are met. For example, if a product fails a safety inspection during production or transit, the smart contract can trigger alerts to relevant parties for necessary corrective actions.

Blockchain technology also enhances transparency in the supply chain by allowing consumers to access verified information about a product origin and journey from the manufacturer to the retailer.

In summary, blockchain technology ensures robust security, transparency, and immutability in creating and verifying Digital Product Passports. This streamlined approach improves communication among stakeholders, reduces fraud risks, and enhances quality assurance measures throughout the product life cycle. Moreover, since blockchain technology is an integral part of creating and verifying Digital Product Passports’ authenticity, regulators must understand its implications thoroughly. They may need to create new laws or amend existing ones related to blockchain technology’s legal status.

 

What industries will be most affected?

The implementation of digital product passports will have a significant impact on various industries in the European market. Industries such as textiles, electronic devices, construction, plastics, automotive, and chemicals are among the first to be targeted for adoption. These sectors face challenges related to counterfeit goods, supply chain transparency, and quality control. For example, digital product passports can provide reliable information about the origin, materials used, production processes, and certifications of textile products, addressing concerns about counterfeiting and ensuring transparency.

Similarly, digital product passports can combat the circulation of counterfeit electronic devices, ensuring consumers purchase genuine and safe products. In the construction industry, these passports can enhance transparency and quality control by tracking construction materials and components and ensuring compliance with safety standards.

Plastics, automotive, and chemical industries can also benefit from digital product passports. For plastics, the passports can provide information about composition, recyclability, and environmental impact, addressing concerns about recycling and waste management. 

Automotive companies can enhance supply chain transparency and verify the authenticity of spare parts, reducing the risks associated with counterfeit products. In the chemicals industry, digital product passports can verify the origin, safety, and compliance of chemicals used in various applications. While these industries are the initial focus, the aim is to eventually extend the requirements to all products in the European market.

By 2026, representatives from these industries are expected to implement digital product passport solutions, establishing a standardized approach to traceability and authentication. Overall, the adoption of digital product passports will improve traceability, authentication, and transparency, benefiting both businesses and consumers in the European market.

 

The potential challenges and limitations of Digital Product Passports

While implementing Digital Product Passports offers numerous benefits, there are several challenges and limitations to consider. 

  • One significant challenge is achieving widespread adoption among manufacturers, retailers, and consumers. Without broad acceptance, the full advantages of digital product passports may not be realized, limiting their effectiveness. 
  • Maintaining accurate and up-to-date information within product passports poses another challenge. With a vast amount of data across multiple products and supply chain partners, there is a risk of errors or incomplete information entering the system. 
  • Ensuring data accuracy will be crucial to maintain the integrity of the passport system. Privacy concerns are also paramount, as digital product passports contain sensitive information about products and consumers. 
  • Establishing clear guidelines regarding data access and usage will be essential to address privacy issues and maintain trust among stakeholders. 
  • Creating and maintaining digital passports may involve costs, potentially posing a barrier for smaller companies or those with limited budgets. The affordability and accessibility of implementing the necessary infrastructure and technologies need to be carefully considered to ensure fair participation.  
  • Regulatory issues related to intellectual property rights could emerge when multiple parties are involved in creating or verifying a single passport. Policymakers will need to navigate these complexities to ensure fair distribution of credit and protection of intellectual property.

Addressing these challenges and limitations will be crucial to the successful implementation of digital product passports, ensuring widespread adoption, accurate information management, privacy protection, cost-effectiveness, and regulatory compliance.

 

Conclusions

Digital Product Passports have the potential to revolutionize the way we track and manage products throughout their entire life cycle. By providing a unique digital identity for each product, we can ensure authenticity, traceability, and transparency at every step of the supply chain. The benefits of digital product passports are many: increased efficiency, reduced waste, improved sustainability practices, and enhanced consumer safety. However, there are challenges to overcome, such as regulatory compliance and standardization across industries. Blockchain technology has emerged as a promising solution for creating secure and decentralized systems that can verify digital product passports. As more companies adopt this technology in their operations, it is likely that regulators will begin to develop frameworks specifically tailored to these new solutions.

It is clear that Digital Product Passports represent an exciting development in the world of product management. Whether you are concerned about environmental impact or simply want to know where your products come from – this innovative tool promises a future where consumers can make informed decisions. Businesses can operate with greater efficiency than ever before.