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Part 3 - How might digital product passports change behaviours among producers and retailers?

Would you, consciously, stock up with products you knew you wouldn't be able to sell?

A rhetorical question indeed. NOBODY in their right mind would do that. At least not anybody honest.


 

This is the third and last article in a series on the topic of digital product passports and the behavioural change to improved circularity and environmental care that they are hoped to drive.


 

So, it's probably a pretty safe bet to assume that retailers will make sure their suppliers can not only provide the goods, but also the data to go with them, the digital product passports. Just as producers throughout the supply chain will make sure that those before them will provide valid digital product passports. How will they be able to sell their goods, otherwise?

So, we expect quite some substantial self-policing throughout the supply chain.

But there's more.


An initial purge?

To begin with, the sheer effort of having to produce and display the requested information will hopefully weed out the worst environmental wrong-doers. Counterfeiters and other cheaters, corner-cutters and the like. If they didn't bother before to honestly produce a genuine quality product, do you think they are up for the additional effort of producing (or trying to fake) digital product passports? We doubt it.


Thinking of those who cut corners, it's probably not too wild speculation to guess that some certificates of environmental or social responsibility will turn out to be fake or outdated once people start compiling their digital product passport data, don't you think?


In the longer run

As this illustration makes obvious, digital product passports are part of the Ecodesign regulation (ESPR), one intention being to change product design over time to reduce environmental impact, use less scarce resources, boost reparability, and to facilitate re-use.


Illustration by the Swedish Institute for Standardisation

  • Just how much waste reduction might come from being able to repair devices or change batteries instead of throwing away and buying new?

  • How much from modified designs facilitating re-use and recycling?

  • How much from less resource and energy consuming production, less wasteful production and logistics?

To make it hands-on: When will we start switching our complete smartphone for a new one and, instead, repair it or switch modules?

When will our smartphone live longer than the battery?


 

This was the last article in our series of three on behavioural change induced (hopefully) by the introduction of digital product passports. The previous articles are:


If you're interested in digital product passports or circularity in general, why not subscribe to our blog (at the bottom of this page) or – even better – engage in our community here!


Digital product passports are not only a matter for consumers. Obviously, no retailer or producer wants to be stuck with stock that is impossible to sell, so we can expect industry to "self police" the availability and correctness of digital product passports. But we also expect an initial purge as counterfeiters and rogue producers won't be able to or bothered with trying to come up with digital product passports to go with their fake of substandard products. Finally, we expect the heightened awareness and commercial logic to, over time, drive product development to be favour recyclability, repairability, re-use and a lower pressure on the environment from raw materials and production processes.
Hoping that the introduction of digital product passports will contribute to a cleaner, better future

Image by Boonyachoat on iStock

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