Sustainable products to become the norm in the EU

Jonatan Tullberg and Staffan Olsson from GS1 Sweden

An upcoming EU regulation requires almost all products to have a digital product passport that shares sustainability and traceability data throughout their lifecycle. Jonatan Tullberg and Staffan Olsson from GS1 Sweden highlight the benefits of green products becoming the standard and advise on next steps.

Consumers and businesses currently lack sufficient information about products to make sustainable choices. The European Commission wants to change this with a new regulation on digital product passports (DPPs) for trade items and goods sold on the European market. This means that sustainability and traceability data will be shared directly with consumers and between businnes partners in the supply chain. The purpose of the product passport is to provide digital information about products, such as the components they contain and how they can be recycled.

– It is a digital representation of a product where the aim is to make sustainability data available throughout its lifecycle, says Staffan Olsson, Head of Public Affairs at GS1 Sweden.

Important step towards a circular economy

Digital product passports are part of the EU’s Ecodesign for Sustainable Products Regulation (ESPR) framework directive. The proposal currently covers around 30 product categories – ranging from textiles, electronics and furniture to FMCG products and general merchandise. Only a few sectors, such as food, feed, and medicinal products, are exempted.

This is an important step towards the circular economy and concerns everyone selling products in the EU, including manufacturers who do not make sustainability claims on their products. That’s why it’s important to start preparing now.

Jonatan Tullberg, CEO of GS1 Sweden

The regulation is aligned with EU’s Green Deal, which in turn links to the UN’s global goals. The EU is expected to decide on the regulation in 2024, after which the rules will be rolled out gradually, probably starting in 2025.

New benefits for consumers and businesses

Digital product passports will mean a transition at first, but also many new benefits for businesses and consumers.

– Sweden is at the forefront when it comes to sustainable products and traceability. Some leading producers already have a transparent management of sustainability data. They will now have the chance for greater exposure internationally,” says Staffan Olsson.

The transition will require more traceability in the supply chain, which will also contribute to better consumer and product safety. In addition, the work of the producing companies will be more efficient. Jonatan Tullberg continues:

– Traceability through unique identification of locations and parties in a value chain means you can securely and automatically trace whether your subcontractors are third-party certified and therefore meet your sustainability requirements and sourcing criterias.

Staffan Olsson concludes by saying that there are several ongoing projects in Sweden right now, such as Trace4Value, Keep and ProPare, which are preparing industries for digital product passports. He adds:

– Right now, we are gathering insights and building prototypes to test solutions that are efficient, open to all and based on established standards.

Prepare for digital product passports

Here are four initial steps producers can take now.

  1. Appoint a responsible person in the company. Identify how digital product passports will affect your business.
  2. Assess maturity. Companies that can track all raw material components are well prepared, while companies that do not have unique identities on their products need to start there.
  3. Plan for the introduction of 2D barcodes. QR codes and the Data Matrix enable identification of products, batches and consumer interaction.
  4. Ensure that data complies with global standards. Product data needs to follow a common structure to be relevant to everyone when shared.

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