Could A Digital Tag Help Fashion Become More Circular?

Beyond sustainability is circularity, when you can recycle, reuse or reuse clothing instead of sending it to landfill. Yet this has been a challenge for many brands: how do they know what to do with clothing if they are unsure of the materials and its life cycle? How do they communicate basic information about the garment to the entire supply chain that follows?

“Until now, brands lacked the ability to communicate critical product and material data for a circular system after the first store,” says Annie Gullingsrud, Chief Strategy Officer of EON, a New York-based group that is helping build technology and language to facilitate circularity.

This fall, EON partnered with The CircularID Initiative to launch the Circular protocol on product data specific for fashion and clothing. But it’s no industry secret – rather it’s publicly available to anyone as part of the Creative Commons License (CC-ND 4). Development of the protocol was funded by EON, the Laudes Foundation and industrial partners.

The CircularID initiative, behind this new protocol, was convened in 2019 to allow fashion industry leaders to begin developing a digital solution for the circular economy. Stakeholders include Closed Loop Partners, Target, PVH Corp., Microsoft, GS1 US, Waste Management, The Renewal Workshop, ForDays, I: CO, IDEO, Sustainable Apparel Coalition, Open Apparel Registry, RISE Research Institute of Sweden, Revolve Waste , Circ and others.

Annie Gullingsrud, EON’s Chief Strategy Officer, provides some insight into how this protocol actually works in practice and why it is useful in the circularity conversation.

Esha Chabra: If you were to explain the Circular Product Data Protocol and how it works to someone who knows nothing about circularity, how would you describe it?

Anne Gullingsrud: You may have noticed that on the packaging of most of the foods we eat there is a list of ingredients and nutritional values. This information helps customers make the right decisions about their health.

The protocol works in a similar way. It defines what information brands need to acquire about their products and codes how it is communicated. Provides retailers and recyclers with the information they need to maximize the value and recovery of each item. For example, a retailer today has to manually determine the resale price of each item and may have very little information to make that decision.

Brands using the Circular Product Data Protocol can digitally share key information with retailers and recyclers, such as the brand that produced a garment, original selling price, material content, ownership history, and more. It helps move products through the system and retailers and recyclers scale their operations.

Chabra: Can you give us an example of a company and how they were able to implement it?

Gullingsrud: The brands we work with use digital ID in a variety of ways, from engaging customers to future-proofing their products for a circular lifecycle.

In 2020, Yoox Net-A-Porter Group launched its first digital identities in its four online stores, Net-a-Porter, Mr Porter, The Outnet and Yoox. Starting with his private collections, each garment is linked to a “digital passport” which houses essential information such as brand details, material content and retail price.

A washable digital label such as a QR code or NFC tag is attached to each product, allowing customers to access information about its authenticity, provenance, history, and styling, care and repair considerations so they can last longer long and encourage a circular mindset.

As the Group expands its services to include re-commerce and recycling, sorting partners will also be able to scan to access key information about their products and maximize their value in the circular economy.

Chabra: How is it different from FiberTrace and other blockchain platforms?

Gullingsrud: EON is the business data infrastructure needed to enable the creation of each item’s unique digital ID and the essential network to generate and exchange this data across the apparel value chain, from manufacturing to customer use. , resale, reuse and recycling.

EON manages each item’s unique digital ID and all data associated with that item to create a global repository of essential product data. In EON Product Cloud, the digital ID includes all data related to the product: size, color, material content, image assets, authentication, resale instructions, authentication etc.

This means that blockchain material traceability platforms such as FiberTrace can carry their material traceability information into the digital product ID on the EON Product Cloud, so that this data remains with the product throughout the life of the asset. Without a digital ID, traceability information on products and materials is lost as it is not associated with the product through customer use, resale, recycling, etc.

EON works in conjunction with many blockchains and allows brands to manage the data associated with the identity of each product. For example, EON ensures that a recycler can access all necessary data. Like an operating system, EON allows products to connect to other applications and online activities. We also connect to a number of other third parties, from digital wardrobe and styling apps to resale and recycling companies.

Chabra: What is the cost of participation?

Gullingsrud: Although critical data on products and materials is not available for sorting facilities, circularity will not be a possibility. For this reason, the Circular Product Data Protocol is free and publicly available to brands, retailers, and circular companies. We must work together in a common language if we are to create a positive future for industry and our planet.


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