Digital product passports must provide reliable sustainability data on products in real-time, regardless of industry or product category. To meet this objective, the underlying solution must be based on an open, global and competition-neutral standard.
Consumers and purchasers need to have access to accurate product information in real time. This is a prerequisite if their choices are to contribute to meeting EU’s climate goals and to a circular transition. But it is today difficult for consumers and purchasers to make sustainable choices. Too little product information is available in connection with purchases, and the information available is not always reliable. The European Commission has presented a proposal for so-called product passports for all products that are made available on the European market. The purpose of the product passport is to increase traceability and support a circular economy by manufacturers being required to share various sustainability data for their products.
Uniform standard rather than fragmented solutions
In order to accelerate the transition to sustainable development and avoid fragmented solutions, it is important that digital product passports are based on an open, global, and competition-neutral standard. However, the development towards such a uniform and competition-neutral standard risks being hampered by private, rigid, and non-compatible solutions, resulting in suboptimization and the risk of transparency and accessibility being lost.
“Our only competitor in ProPare is unsustainable production. We collaborate widely across industries and sectors to show the way to a practical solution for digital product passports that is generic, complies with the legislation, and works in the long term.” – Viveka Risberg, Axfoundation
The ProPare project aims to develop the underlying digital product passport infrastructure. The basis for this is a resolver function based on an open, competition-neutral and global standard. Through an open infrastructure, all players – suppliers and retailers as well as public authorities and consumers – can obtain reliable sustainability data on products in real–time, regardless of industry, company or product category.
“If, by 2025, we’re to succeed in exchanging product information between each other, regardless of industry, supplier or product, this will require a basic global and competition-neutral product passport infrastructure. We want to create this using existing technology in a new way.” – Staffan Olsson, GS1 Sweden
ProPare aims to build an open infrastructure for digital product passports where all players can obtain reliable sustainability product data in real-time.
To provide a concrete example of how a digital product passport infrastructure can be created and further developed, the project has chosen to create a demo app in which third-party certifications (Type 1 Ecolabel, ISO 14024) are linked to product identities and can be displayed to various players in real–time. In a next step, any type of information can be linked to a product and show everything right from basic data on product properties to complex sustainability data on, for example, recyclability, climate impact from production and contents of components.
“By linking third-party certifications with product identities, with the Nordic Swan Ecolabel as an example, ProPare provides a specific example of how a digital product passport system can work in practice.” – Jonas Oldmark, Ecolabelling Sweden AB (the Nordic Swan Ecolabel and the EU Flower)
Through the practical solution, we want to accelerate and strengthen the prerequisites for digital product passports based on an open, competition-neutral, and global standard. Together, we want to show legislators and trade and industry the way towards secure product information and increase the pace of the transition to sustainable production and consumption.
The project is conducted in a collaboration between Axfoundation, Swedish Trade Federation, Ecolabelling Sweden AB, brand owners, producers, third-party certifiers and GS1 who is part of the global standards organization GS1. A management organization will be created for further development if the solution is successful.
“This solution is good for Swedish industry and the Swedish business sector. Through standardised global product passports, we can accelerate the transition to a sustainable development.” – Magnus Nikkarinen, Swedish Trade Federation
The steering committee consists of Axfoundation, GS1 Sweden, Ecolabelling Sweden AB (the Nordic Swan Ecolabel and the EU Flower), and Swedish Trade Federation. Corporate partners in the project are engaged in groceries trade, fashion, furniture and general retail trade with players such as Axfood/Dagab, Ahlsell, and Mio as well as technology developer Blue Cromos, which is responsible for the app development.
Product passport terminology
- Product passport: A set of digital data that is specific to a product and that is designed to provide all relevant information over the life cycle of the product in order to contribute to more sustainable production and consumption.
- Open, global and competition-neutral standard: A standard that anyone may use and which is designed to function in all parts of the world and where players in all countries can participate in governance of the standard.
- Resolver function: An IT system that allows verified product data to be transferred in real –time from a variety of different sources to a large number of recipients, without being compromised along the way.
- Demo app: A mobile application designed to create an understanding of how the underlying product passport infrastructure works and how it can be scaled up to comprise more information elements and more products.
EU’s digital product passport
- The European Commission has tabled a proposal for so-called digital product passports for all products made available on the European market. The product passport aims to increase traceability and support a circular economy by requiring manufacturers to share various sustainability data for their products.
- Product passports are a result of the review of the EU Ecodesign Directive, which is a framework directive aimed at improving the environmental performance of products throughout their life cycle. The product passport legislation forms part of the Bill on the Sustainable Product Inititative (SPI), which, in turn, comes under the EU Green Deal – an all-inclusive initiative aimed at creating a circular and sustainable EU. Sweden’s first Circular Economy Action Plan also proposes a digital passport for products.
- The legislation is expected to be implemented at the earliest in 2025.