Digital product passport 101: The journey to sustainability


March 27, 2023

Products will soon need a passport for their journey. But what is a digital product passport?

Sustainability is one of the hottest topics in the business world. For years, consumers, governments, and industry leaders have been talking about the need to conserve resources, find smarter production methods, and make more responsible choices. 

All this talk is finally turning into action. One clear sign is that the push for a circular economy is going mainstream. This concept challenges traditional linear (make > use > dispose) product lifecycle. Instead, it encourages the creation of an infinite production loop, continuously reusing and repurposing products and materials instead of throwing them away. 

Government regulations are also nudging us into a new, more sustainable era. California’s Prop 65 paved the way some years ago by requiring product labels to disclose the use of certain chemicals. However, in Europe, the European Union (EU) is raising the bar for sustainability reporting by introducing the much-anticipated digital product passport (DPP). 

But what does the DPP entail? And, more importantly, what does it mean for your business? 

Are your products ready to go circular?

Read the latest inriver ebook “The Circular Product Journey” to find out.

What is a digital product passport? 

Like its travel-friendly namesake, the digital product passport will become a necessary document that accompanies a product on its journey, consolidating data from material sourcing and extraction all the way through to end-of-life recycling. However, instead of a paper booklet, the DPP will be permanently affixed to each product in the form of an NFC chip, QR code, or RFID tag. 

The data collection starts at a product’s design phase, documenting the materials it contains, where they were sourced, and where the product was assembled. From that point on, the DPP is continuously updated, showing when and where the product was sold, if it has been repaired, or if any parts were replaced, for example. 

Over the course of its lifetime, anyone who interacts with the product – including manufacturers, shoppers, and repair staff – can scan the DPP to instantly reveal all this underlying product information.  

Once implemented, the DPP will solve a major challenge that’s been standing in the way of a circular economy: transparency. It will give industry stakeholders and consumers deep insights into every step of a product’s supply chain, laying the groundwork for a huge new range of sustainable business models.  

factory worker scanning a qr code

What data is stored in a digital product passport? 

The EU is still mapping out all the data requirements, which includes standardizing definitions and data collection practices. However, here are some examples of what the DPP is likely to include: 

Who does the digital product passport affect? 

There’s no denying that the DPP will have a major effect on brands and manufacturers. Complex products have complex supply chains, and for years the links between the players in those chains were often extremely opaque.  

The DPP signals the end of that era. Companies will no longer be able to operate without having a deep understanding of the design, production, use, and recycling phases of their products.  

In the early stages of implementation, many brands and manufacturers will need to completely rethink how they do business – and with whom. But once in place, the DPP will give companies valuable insights into their environmental footprint, accelerate the achievement of sustainability goals, and enable them to charge a premium for more responsibly made products. 

The DPP will also directly benefit the other players in the value chain: 

The global reach of the digital product passport

While the DPP is an EU regulation, its reach will extend far beyond Europe. For example, a global electronics manufacturer headquartered in North America that produces laptops in Asia and then sells them in Europe will still need to comply with all relevant DPP regulations. Therefore, it applies to any product that is bought or sold in the European market. No matter where the product is made or the manufacturer located, the digital product passport will become a globally relevant standard.

What is the timeline for the DPP? 

The DPP will eventually apply to at least 30 product categories. However, to make things easier the DPP is rolling out one sector at a time. Batteries – specifically industrial and electric vehicle batteries – will serve as the test case. While not legally required until 2026, industry bodies are already taking the necessary steps to ensure compliance, and the first proof of concept was unveiled at this year’s Economic Forum in Davos

battery production - one of the first industries to introduce digital product passports

Textiles and electronics will follow shortly after, with EU-funded consortium CIRPASS overseeing deployment roadmaps for all three categories. Here’s an overview of some crucial DPP dates manufacturers should keep in mind: 

Product category Expected DPP implementation Related regulation 
Batteries Prototype in progress, implementation starting 2024 New EU Battery Regulation 
Textiles Prototype in progress, implementation starting 2024 EU Strategy for Sustainable and Circular Textiles 
Electronics Prototype in progress, implementation starting 2024 Ecodesign for Sustainable Products Regulation 
Construction products Regulation signed 2022, DPP implementation date not yet set Construction Products Regulation 
Other products Announced in 2024 To be defined by the final version of the Ecodesign of Sustainable Products Regulation 

The importance of data for the digital product passport

Even if the deadlines aren’t entirely clear, there’s one thing that’s certain: Digital Product Passports are coming soon.  

In the meantime, the best way for brands and manufacturers to prepare is to get their product data in order. That includes defining clear processes for data collection and storage, alerting suppliers about new transparency requirements, and identifying knowledge gaps that might slow down the path to compliance.  

The DPP is the latest indicator that sustainable business practices are here to stay. But going green isn’t the only big shift brands and manufacturers will face in the coming years. Exploding channels, increasing customer demands, and new service possibilities will present new challenges, as well as new ways to drive revenue.  

Want to know more about what the future holds? Then read our latest ebook: A new era of opportunity in manufacturing, or book a demo with an inriver expert to see how inriver can help you futureproof your operations. 

want to see the inriver PIM in action?

Schedule a personalized, guided demo with an inriver expert today to see how the inriver PIM can get more value from your product information.

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  • Brooke Cunningham

    Chief Marketing Officer

    As Chief Marketing Officer, Brooke is responsible for inriver's end-to-end marketing strategy.

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