By 2030, every fashion and textile product sold within the EU will require a Digital Product Passport (DPP). The scheme should make it easier to share information about a garment’s supply chain and other useful data.

The scheme aims to provide consumers with better information to allow them to make informed choices, helping move society towards more sustainable choices and eventually circularity.

Digital Product Passports are being rolled out one sector at a time, starting with batteries, but many fashion companies are already starting to introduce DPPs.

With sustainability becoming an growing concern – and a lot of data required to make the scheme work – is it time for fashion brands to make a start on introducing DPPs?

What is a Digital Product Passport (DPP)?

DPPs are scannable QR codes or other tags added to products to provide information about the product’s material composition, supply chain and how it can be recycled or disposed of safely.

Helene Behrenfeldt, industry solution director – fashion at software provider Infor, told Just Style that using DPPs should be as easy as scanning a label or code with a mobile phone for consumers.

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DPPs are designed to help companies and consumers move toward circular models.

How will the fashion sector use DPPs?

With such complex supply chains, many businesses in the fashion sector are likely to find implementing DPPs a challenge.

Most importantly, all fashion brands selling products in the EU will need to be able to share detailed information about their supply chains and sourcing – and soon. Behrenfeldt said that sourcing this type of information can be “difficult” for many fashion brands.

Behrenfeldt added that the sourcing of this data will be “the easy part” for many brands and that finding a way to share and store the information will be trickier.

“There’s a lot of work that can be done, but the common denominator is the data and you’ll need to have a solid plan in place.,” Behrenfeldt explained.

Are any companies already using DPPs?

In September 2023, clothing brand Nobody’s Child added DPPs, in the form of unique QR codes, to each of its product’s care labels. Clothing with the DPPs is already available through UK retailers M&S, ASOS and John Lewis.

This offers consumers the possibility to trace their garments through incentivised gifts, and a unique NFT offered in collaboration with Coinbase, a cryptocurrency exchange platform.

The partnership enables Nobody’s Child to connect to their customers using Web3 technology. Users will be able to store the Nobody’s Child DPPs NFT within a Coinbase digital wallet.

How will fashion consumers use DPPs?

With information on how products can be recycled, repaired and reused, DPPs could help fashion consumers make more informed choices and move toward circular models.

Behrenfeldt explained that there are likely to be two broad groups of consumers – those who are not particularly interested in the information provided via DPPs and those who use the detail to shape their purchasing choices.

The information provided by DPPs could be hugely beneficial to the growing resale fashion market, giving consumers information about a garment – including how to care for it, how to dispose of it – even after it has changed hands several times.

Another way that DPPs may be used is to authenticate products. Behrenfeldt said that consumers may be able to use the technology for reassurance that they are “getting the real thing”, especially when it comes to second-hand purchases.

Will countries outside of the EU adopt DPPs?

While so far no other regions have joined the EU in requiring DPPs, it is likely that the concept will be used across the world, particularly when the roll-out reaches the apparel sector.

“Fashion is a global industry,” Behrenfeldt explained. “It’s not like food and beverages, which is quite local – fashion is the opposite.”

Even if other countries do not adopt DPPs, it’s likely that the requirement for them in the EU will impact the global sector and consumers outside the EU will find the codes or tags on their clothing – and expect to be able to use them too.

Are there any benefits to adopting DPPs?

Behrenfeldt explained that DPPs offer fashion brands another chance to connect with their consumers “on an emotional level”.

“Consumers have so many options,” she explained. “You want to make sure they are loyal.” She added that DPPs could be a way to inspire this, sharing detailed information about a product’s origins – even including pictures of where the materials were grown or the products made.

She also cited the frequent bad press attracted by brands that have failed to keep tabs on their supply chains. DPPs could provide a way for fashion companies to avoid this and prevent reputational damage through transparency.

“I think this is super critical for brands,” Behrenfeldt said. “If you are not telling the story around your product, someone else will.”

What should fashion brands do now to ensure they are on track for Digital Product Passport rollout?

While there has already been much discussion and debate around the launch of DPPs, Behrenfeldt believes that it is now time for the apparel sector to take action to ensure they have the right tools in place.

Brands will need to decide how they plan to share their DPPs with consumers – such as through a QR code or website link – and how they plan to present the data to users.

“It all comes down to one thing – data,” Behrenfeldt said. “And you need to have a plan for that.”