Digital Product Passports: The End of the Fast Fashion Era?

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Digital Product Passports: The End of the Fast Fashion Era?

The fashion industry must prepare for significant changes in data collection and management as Digital Product Passports (DPPs) are set to be introduced in 2026. The Research Department of the European Parliament has presented a thorough study on the implementation of this technology. What do clothing businesses need to prepare for? Experts from Exorigo-Upos explain.

The Digital Product Passport (DPP) is a European Union initiative to provide each product with a durable identity. The DPP will contain essential data enabling the identification of the product, its composition, and its origin throughout its lifecycle, including information on recycling methods.

The “Sustainable Product” regulation project, which introduced the concept of DPP, was adopted by the European Commission at the end of March 2022. A month later, work began on this solution. Product passports will apply not only to goods manufactured in Europe but also to those imported into the EU from other markets. Starting from 2026, batteries, electronics, and textiles will be required to have DPPs.

Currently, the regulatory project is in the European Commission’s proposal phase, which will then be subject to voting and potential implementation.

Fashion Industry Takes the Lead

The operation of the clothing industry poses one of the main challenges for the European Union in terms of environmental and climate impact. It ranks fourth in damage, just behind the food, construction, and transportation sectors, accounting for nearly 6% of the EU’s total ecological footprint. The fashion industry is responsible for 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions, 79 trillion litres of water consumption, 20% of industrial pollution in rivers and seas, 92 million tons of waste, and 35% of microplastics entering the oceans each year.

The industry is attempting to meet growing consumer demand while considering ESG principles. However, this task is challenging due to the nature of the products manufactured.

Fast fashion” is a production and sales model of cheap, low-quality clothing produced quickly and in large quantities, often at the expense of working conditions and the environment. An excellent example of reducing the popularity of fast fashion is France in the EU, where the parliament intends to introduce financial penalties for clothing manufacturers and ban product advertisements from this segment. These implementations aim to reduce consumerism and promote a conscious approach to shopping – says Magdalena McLean, a member of the board and head of the ESG team at Exorigo-Upos.

Textile production involves multiple entities driven by diverse buyers. The European Parliament’s research team conducted field studies to understand transparency practices in this sector. The results indicate a need for more information on textile origins. Only 17% of brands fully provided detailed origin data, while 93% only shared the country of production. In response to unsatisfactory reporting data, lawmakers proposed dividing stakeholders into levels within the DPP, starting from raw material producers (Level 4) to final sales (Level 0). Each will be required to provide further information to the DPP.

What Data Does DPP Collect and Provide?

Tracking and monitoring the entire product lifecycle is highly complex. More than simple identifiers are required to distinguish identical items in production and logistics processes. The FMCG segment recognized this issue, and Poland’s largest grocery store chains have successfully implemented GS1 DataMatrix and GS1 QR product codes, which are 2D barcodes. These can contain much more information about the product than a typical barcode, such as batch number, expiration date, and serial number. Furthermore, 2D codes can be easily scanned with a smartphone. The next step will be the implementation of the Digital Product Passport, which will provide information on raw material origins, transportation, and carbon footprint generation, among others. The DPP aims to facilitate informed consumer choices and answer the question of what to do with a product when it’s no longer usable. The latter is especially welcome, as currently only 12% of discarded textiles are recycled – adds Anna Schabikowska, a board advisor at Exorigo-Upos and member of the “Responsible e-commerce” group at the e-Chamber.

With DPP, companies can more effectively track deliveries, manage resources, and switch to more ecological materials, such as organic cotton. Additionally, DPP provides data that facilitate product recycling and repair, benefiting consumers and the circular economy. Implementation will also help producers in the premium and luxury sectors develop and implement tools to combat the production of “counterfeits.”

According to the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO), as many as 86 million counterfeit products enter the European market annually, with a total value exceeding two billion euros. The OECD reports that the value of counterfeit goods circulating worldwide reached around three trillion US dollars in 2022. The goods most commonly seized by customs are games, packaging, and toys. However, the highest profits come from replicas of clothing, watches, or luxury brand handbags – comments Magdalena McLean from Exorigo-Upos.

In addition to product identification through reference numbers and branding, the report’s findings suggest including 16 categories of information. These include detailed product descriptions and compositions, information on transportation and its environmental impact, chemicals used and their effects on health, quantity of manufactured items, social impact and human rights considerations, and customer reviews. Check what e-commerce solutions meet these needs.

How Will Implementation Proceed?

The system’s implication will be divided into three stages. The first phase will cover “minimal and simplified DPP” for the textile industry in the short term until 2027. The initial passports will include product composition information, such as the use of recycled materials, the presence of hazardous substances and microplastics, recyclability, supply chain tracking, and packaging information, including its potential for reuse. Additional data may be added, such as lifecycle analysis, weight, quantity, and composition of materials used, or transportation methods and distances covered.

In the second phase, attention will focus on expanding the scope and standardizing information systems in the textile sector, as well as certifications, audits, and tracking mechanisms to facilitate easier integration and automation of data collection. Lawmakers aim to unify DPPs across the industry, ensuring compliance with European regulations.

The third and final implementation stage aims to address scalability issues by leveraging knowledge from previous phases, such as surveys or workshops, to increase adaptability and effectiveness for broader applications.

The scope of DPP will be expanded to include stakeholders from the textile and clothing industries, both domestic and international. This will promote circularity, enable more comprehensive data analysis through artificial intelligence, and facilitate the establishment of regulations based on best practices.

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