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Learning from forestry for digital product passports

In our recent blog post we drew parallels between the deforestation directive to digital product passports, to offer a taste of which kind of data that might be asked for when implementing the digital product passports. We've kept looking for clues in forestry and come up with more.

Certification of forests

Forestry has come quite some way already, with two supplementary certifications for responsible forestry used around the world; PEFC and FSC.

  • FSC – Founded in 1993. Started with a focus on tropical forests, growing to be used world-wide. To balance the interests of different stakeholders, FSC is governed by three chambers with equal vote and power to make decisions. The three chambers represent environmental, economic, and social interest.

  • PEFC – Founded in 1999. Started in Europe to provide a certification possible for small holders, growing as well to be used on all continents. PEFC sees environmental, social, and economic sustainability requirements as inseparable parts which need to be handled as one.

The origins of the certifications is reflected in their respective use geographically, with FSC dominating in the tropics and PEFC in Europe. Taking Sweden as an example, around 70% of all woodlands potentially available for forestry is covered by one or both certifications.

We have explored PEFC, primarily.

PEFC as it stands, comes quite some way to comply with the deforestation directive

As with digital product passports, the detailed implications of the forestry directive are not yet completely sorted out, but the main requirement added is actually the traceability of origin to three decimals of latitude and longitude, which translates to between 50 and 110 meters depending on the distance from the equator. This is not the only addition, but the most notable.

That said, it might be a good idea to read through the current PEFC and FSC standards to get an idea of what lies ahead of many other industries. See the PEFC Standard for traceability, for example.

But the possibilities to learn from forestry don't stop there....

Similar issues with commodities from multiple suppliers

In another recent blog post, we reflected on how the regulators might intend to handle situations where raw materials in bulk, with identical specifications but different origins, might get combined into a single product, inseparable. We used plastic pellets as example, identical pellets that might get moulded into plastic toys, details or.. . you name it. If a certificate of one of them might have expired, the whole batch would be deemed non-compliant.

Well, in forestry there are pellets too, wooden pellets. And there's paper pulp used to produce paper. Pulp that might come from one paper mill, but is a blend of wood from a multitude of producers and plots. How that will be handled seems still to be a mystery. There's word around that manufacturers outside of the EU may give up on selling there goods altogether to the EU as it will get too difficult.

Similar IT challenges

Finally, in last week's blog post we dealt with characteristics needed for digital product passports to become a success with consumers and the business; trust, ease of use and agility. It turns out that for the deforestation directive, the EU seems to be building something similar to that monolithic database we stated, in the last paragraph, should be avoided for digital product passports to ensure agility and avoid data to get locked in. We wonder why they've chosen that approach?

So, as we suspected a few week's back, there seems to be a lot to learn from digital product passports from forestry and the deforestation directive, for business, for standardisation and certification and, maybe, for politicians and staff in the Commission and the Parliament.

Fo-resting to keep up with new regulations?
Fo-resting to keep up with new regulations?

Image by Anastasiia Shavshyna on iStock

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