Digital product passports to fuel value chain sustainability

digital product passports

Digital product passports will play an increasingly central role in value chain sustainability and the circular economy. Powered by blockchain and AI technology and due to become law across the EU in 2026, DPPs are key to establishing the credibility of strict new supply chain reporting rules but is business and industry ready to embrace the benefits of DPPs?

The digital product passport (DPP) is a tool proposed by the European Commission (EC) to create transparency, unlock circularity and share product information across the entire value chain including data on raw material extraction and sourcing, production and recycling. DPPs will track, monitor and verify product properties throughout whole-life business processes to support a sustainable economy.

The EU directives currently mainly apply to the battery, textile and construction markets with food and pharmaceutical products currently excluded, however strict requirements can be expected in the near future for wider industries. There is growing pressure on more industries such as furniture, plastics, chemicals, construction and automobile manufacturing, to adopt DPPs.

DPPs to standardise access to supply chain data

The circular economy roadmap outlined by the EU aims to unify and standardise access to data. DPPs will address and comply with the new requirements, providing easy access to transparent product information for supply chain participants to support regulatory and circular economy goals. The European Digital Product Passport initiative will require each product placed by a business on the EU market to carry its individual information passport, access to which will need to be provided via a data carrier to a unique product identifier (UID).

“To help businesses understand their role in making passports a reality, data specification standards have already been established,” Elena Rotzokou, EPR researcher at Ecoveritas, said. “For example, digital links accessible through a unique product identifier will need to be added to the products themselves rather than outer packaging or tags. Interested parties should be able to access information relating to raw materials, manufacturers, distributors, retailers, and recycling options. All a consumer needs to do is scan the product QR code with their phone to access DPP information.”

Traceability systems are to be in place to enable tracking all procedures leading from raw materials to the finished product. Measures will be taken to implement data collection and combination systems to meet the reporting requirements for the passports. Whoever on the supply chain brings a product to the market will carry the responsibility for guaranteeing DPP data accuracy.

For the packaging industry, a range of data availability requirements are expected to apply covering product and product packaging weight and volume, durability, reusability, reparability, the presence of substances inhibiting circularity, energy and resource efficiency, recycled content, remanufacturing, waste generation, resource use, micro-plastic release, and carbon footprints.

The path to DPP compliance

A digital product passport must meet a range of requirements to be fully compliant. The DPP must be issued by a recognised authority; reference product characteristics following agreed standards; be based on validated source information without revealing all internal product details to competitors; support the onward composition of products in a supply chain to form new products with their own product passport. The DPP must form a ‘product passport supply chain’ and be generated and managed with a minimum of manual interactions.

Fulfilling these requirements is essential to implement efficient and sustainable product passports in a business ecosystem to achieve sustainability of the entire supply chain and enable its monitoring. Supply chain participants need to be able to rely on each other and adapt to changing market needs. The proposed EU regulation ‘Eco-design for sustainable products’ also foresees introducing DPPs.

DPPs integrated into a cross-sector ecosystem can be an important source of trustworthy information for product and company-related net zero data, the basis for sustainability assessments of products, suppliers and entire supply chains. A holistic approach includes legal, environmental, social and economic elements. A circular economy aims to maximise the reuse and regeneration of materials and products in a sustainable and environmentally friendly way and a DPP is a fundamental enabler to achieve this aim as it holds all essential product information needed to inform product purchasers as well as facilitating repairs and recycling.

The full benefits of digital product passports will only be realised once they are scaled and interoperable across multiple value chains. The data and insights contained within DPPs can then be used to inform material selection challenges, product design briefs, and circular business models. In turn, these can facilitate customer interactions to promote sufficiency, product lifetime extension and take-back operations to facilitate end-of-life recovery.

Prepare now for the new DPP rules

“The European Commission is conducting consultation on product categories that will be impacted by this law, such as textiles and footwear, furniture, cosmetics, aluminium, plastic and polymer, paper and glass,” Rotzokou said. “Legislation pertaining to data accessibility and traceability information has already affected EPR laws for plastics. 2026 is not far away and further guidelines are expected to start trickling in throughout the coming months to inform obligated businesses of how they should expect to be impacted by DPPs.”

The prospect of adopting Digital product passports may seem daunting, especially since exact requirement specifications are currently not widely available or clear, however whatever the nature of your business if you sell in-scope products to the EU it is wise to start preparing for the new DPP legislation and identify what you will need to do to comply with, and gain advantage from, the new product and supply chain standards.

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