Feeding the appetite for more mindful consumption, the Sustainable Markets Initiative’s Fashion Taskforce has launched a groundbreaking new digital ID and product passport offering. The digital passport will centralize all information for each tagged product, including where the item was made, its production and distribution facilities and overall provenance, as well as care instructions like how to wash, handle, repair, and even responsible end of (product) life advice. Designed to help consumers make eco-friendlier choices and brands facilitate more circular business models, a key feature of the initiative is that product lifecycle details can be added retroactively in real-time as relevant information becomes available. By effectively making the product itself an open and direct line to the brand, the digital passports serve as a signal of authenticity and visibility around the product lifecycle, and the care guidance and advice is aimed to encourage current and future owners to extend the life of their products and keep them in circulation at the highest value possible, for as long as possible.
QR-codes, which not too long ago were written off as a trend of yesteryear that failed to take off, have been resurging lately as the educational barrier around them has fallen away. QR-codes will provide the technological platform behind the digital ID scheme, and empower buyers to make more informed and sustainable purchase choices. The members of the Sustainable Markets Initiative Fashion Taskforce, which include representatives from Chloé, Burberry, Brunello Cucinelli, Stella McCartney, Gabriela Hearst, Giorgio Armani, Zalando and more, have all committed to adopting the digital IDs across their products with immediate effect in order to underline the importance of informing shoppers of the sustainability credentials of their products, and to facilitate circularity at scale. The groundbreaking digital tagging system is an iteration of IoT connected products company EON’s CircularID global identification protocol, which is hosted by Microsoft Azure.
While it is still early days for the technology and its adoption, the hope is that consistent access to credible information about product design, manufacturing, and distribution will serve as a necessary precursor to the development and application of industry-wide sustainability standards for the fashion business, as well as facilitating more circular product lifecycles and production models. Materials science brand PANGAIA has also partnered with EON for the digital passport, and the company is on track to complete lifecycle assessments on 80% of its products by 2022. Through product digitization, fashion brands can redefine the relationship between their products and their consumers, pioneering new models for sustainable commerce and shopper education and relationship building, while taking critical steps toward realizing a greener future.
This article originally appeared in PSFK’s report, The Future of Retail 2042. For more information on emerging retail trends like circularity and sustainability tracking, purchase the report here.