TrusTrace CEO Discusses the Impact of Digital Product Passports

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TrusTrace is leading the charge in fashion sustainability with the release of its playbook, "Unlocking DPP: The Why, What and How of Digital Product Passports." (Photo Credit: TrusTrace)

by | May 22, 2024

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The fashion industry has long faced criticism for its significant environmental impact, mainly due to high waste production. With increasing pressure on brands and manufacturers to reduce waste, establish more sustainable supply chains, and enhance transparency, the industry is turning to innovative solutions like Digital Product Passports (DPPs).

A DPP is a digital document that provides detailed information about a product’s lifecycle. Designed to boost transparency, traceability, and sustainability across supply chains, DPPs are poised to become a cornerstone in achieving these goals. Backed by thorough data collection, DPPs offer insights into a product’s material composition and lifecycle, which are crucial for holistic sustainability efforts. The path to effective DPP implementation, however, can be complex.

TrusTrace and the New Playbook

Established in 2016, TrusTrace developed a platform to enhance product traceability and compliance, enabling global brands to standardize the capture, digitization, and sharing of their supply chain data. The company launched the third edition of its annual playbook today at the Global Fashion Summit in Copenhagen. 

The new playbook, titled “Unlocking DPP: The Why, What, and How of Digital Product Passports,” provides a practical guide for brands on creating and implementing DPPs. 

Interview with TrusTrace CEO and Co-Founder, Shameek Ghosh 

To gain deeper insights into the impact and implementation of Digital Product Passports, we sat down with Shameek Ghosh, CEO and Co-Founder of TrusTrace, to discuss the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead for the fashion industry. Here are some highlights from our conversation.

Q: What prompted TrusTrace to develop this Playbook, and what are the key takeaways you hope fashion professionals will gain from it?

Shameek Ghosh: Our goal with all of our Playbooks is to accelerate the fashion industry’s transition to sustainable practices, aiming for a future where all value chains are traceable, circular, and fair. We constantly look ahead to determine how best to support the fashion industry in this transformation, conducting pilots and product development with industry stakeholders and customers to ensure we have practical, scalable solutions ready when needed. 

Over the past two years, we have been piloting a textile-specific end-to-end Digital Product Passport (DPP) solution with Kappahl, Marimekko, the Swedish Institute of Standards (SiS), GS1, and others through the Trace4Value project. This experience has given us valuable insights into what it takes to prepare for DPPs. 

The introduction of DPPs represents a significant shift in how the industry manages product data and infrastructure and is crucial for the EU to gain the data insights needed to achieve net zero. While the need for DPPs is well recognized, the process of preparing for and implementing them remains unclear, potentially hindering industry progress and sustainability if brands and retailers wait until the delegated acts are finalized at the end of 2025 before taking action.

It is evident that preparing for DPPs will take years, and the work must begin now. So, this Playbook is a practical and comprehensive guide for DPPs and provides brands with essential knowledge and a concrete plan to get started.

Sandra Roos, Vice President of Sustainability at Kappahl, commented on their participation in the Trace4Value project: “The operational components and requirements of the DPP are poorly understood, which is why we joined the Trace4Value project. We learned invaluable insights – such as the need for DPP data fields shown to consumers to be standardized – among many others, and we’re proud to provide our perspective for this playbook, to contribute to making it a comprehensive resource on what’s required for compliance with incoming DPP legislation.”

Q: How does TrusTrace plan to support brands in transitioning to compliance with DPP legislation, especially given the extensive data demands? 

Shameek Ghosh: We are a traceability data and compliance management platform that helps brands gather the data they need to know, prove and improve their supply chain impact. When brands have proper visibility into their supply chain network and the ability to trace the supply chain and collect evidence on a product and purchase order level, they will be able to gather the traceability data needed to comply with DPP, as well as other regulations. We don’t believe brands should collect data for a specific regulation, we believe that they should collect data to comply with all regulations and have a simple data collection framework and use that information to meet all regulatory requirements via the AI interfaces in the TrusTrace platform. We also saw in the DPP pilot study that having digital traceability in place made it much easier to provide the traceability data for the DPP.

Q: Can you provide examples of how detailed supply chain data, as enabled by the DPP, can drive a circular economy and unlock new business opportunities?

Shameek Ghosh: One of the key barriers to creating a circular infrastructure today is that there is no valid data on the volume and material composition of products. DPPs will fill that data gap, driving clarity on what types of materials exist in what quantities and conditions. 

In terms of opportunities – there are many we have probably not even realised or thought of yet, but some that we know are the opportunity to engage more deeply with consumers regarding the products. The ability to tell and develop the product story over time, throughout its lifecyclecreates more opportunities to interact with consumers, driving value and loyalty.

DPPs can also serve as a tool for managing and verifying product authenticity, preventing fraud by clearly validating the product’s origin, which is a clear opportunity for high value items, but is relevant for all brands that want to protect their reputation and consumer experience. Another benefit of mastering supply chain data and having a dynamic view of the entire network is that it enables brands to proactively manage their supply chains, anticipating risks and business disruptions.

Ultimately, transitioning the industry to a truly circular economy, with respect for the world’s resources and global communities, will ensure a sustainable business environment for the future we are creating for ourselves and our children.

Nicolaj Reffstrup, Co-Founder of GANNI, emphasized the importance of acting now: “Digital Product Passports and corresponding legislation are coming for the industry – that’s something we should all be pleased about. We see it as an opportunity to heighten the level of information and transparency we offer consumers about products, but also as an opportunity to manage product data more efficiently, with the product afterlife in mind.” 

Q: How do you see the implementation of DPPs impacting the global fashion industry’s supply chain practices? 

Shameek Ghosh: DPPs will revolutionize the way the industry works with supply chain data, as what was previously analogue, hidden, hard to access and low-quality data will become digital, transparent, readily available and actionable. Possessing detailed supply chain data empowers brands to take a proactive approach, allowing them to maintain control and avoid being blindsided by inevitable disruptions.

It will also create a level playing field, where it is easier to compare and evaluate product and supply chain impacts, enabling consumers to make more informed choices and regulators to uphold sustainability standards.

Q: What advice would you give to brands that are just beginning to explore the implementation of Digital Product Passports? 

Shameek Ghosh: We advise that brands get started with data collection now. Much of the current DPP discussion focuses on the scannable consumer interface, but by focusing too much on this – which is fairly easy to implement – brands may be overlooking what is necessary to populate DPPs, namely the data. Andgathering the data is the harder part that takes time. 

We recommend the following steps to brands that are getting started: 

1. Understand the data requirements of the DPP.

2. Evaluate their internal data and systems to understand what data points they have and where they reside.

3. Evaluate data gaps to understand what they do not have and why, and start looking into how they can collect it. 

4. Evaluate the business opportunity DPP presents; how to best leverage the opportunity, and consider the departmental positioning of DPP responsibilities in relation to impact, IT and product-facing teams. 

Additionally, our pilot revealed that preparing for DPPs – both for compliance and leveraging business opportunities – is a truly multi-functional effort. Responsibility for DPPs should not be limited to compliance, sustainability, and sourcing teams, but should also include commercial teams.

Marimekko’s Sustainability Manager, Marjut Lovio, also noted the potential benefits of DPPs: “In the future, DPP has potential to create customer value as a part of product storytelling and life cycle. We believe this guide can help the industry in moving towards circular business models.”

Key Insights, Structure and Benefits of the Playbook

The playbook, featuring insights from Marimekko, Kappahl, GS1, Textile Exchange, and GANNI, provides a comprehensive guide for fashion professionals on DPPs. It demystifies and offers practical advice for preparing for the upcoming EU mandate between 2026 and 2030. Authored by Brooke Roberts-Islam, it covers the significance, functionality, and implementation timeline of DPPs, along with necessary data protocols for collecting textile-specific product information and lessons from a live DPP pilot. Expert insights help senior leaders take pragmatic steps in preparation, highlighting potential business opportunities beyond compliance. The playbook is structured into sections covering the Why, What, When, and How of DPPs. It begins with EU legislation and its role in achieving net-zero emissions by 2050, provides an overview of DPP components and compliance timelines, and offers practical steps for data collection and implementation based on the Trace4Value project led by TrusTrace.

 

 

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