‘Digital passports’ could future-proof green beauty, says expert

By Kacey Culliney

- Last updated on GMT

Consumers and retailers are demanding greater transparency and ways to prove product authenticity, green claims and wider supply chain stories [Getty Images]
Consumers and retailers are demanding greater transparency and ways to prove product authenticity, green claims and wider supply chain stories [Getty Images]

Related tags beauty 4.0 blockchain beauty tech digital transparency Counterfeit European commission European union green beauty Green Claims Code

Introducing digital product passports will be a strong move in tackling greenwashing in various industries, including cosmetics, but will also open up plenty of opportunities to differentiate and engage with consumers, says a digital expert.

Last year, the European Commission (EC) and national EU consumer authorities conducted a screening of websites to investigate green claims across a host of industries, including cosmetics and fashion. Findings showed​ 42% of cases featured claims that were either exaggerated, false or deceptive and could potentially qualify as unfair commercial practices under EU rules.

The EC planned to come down hard on this via various tools under its wider European Green Deal announced at the end of 2019​ but also a proposal announced more recently.

In March this year, the Commission announced a set of ways it planned to ‘make sustainable products the norm’​, including a proposal for a regulation on eco-design for sustainable products to extend the existing eco-design framework and widen requirements around issues like durability, reusability and so on. Within the proposal, the Commission proposed use of ‘digital product passports’ for all regulated products on the EU market, to facilitate reparations, recycling and tracking of substances of concern.

Philippe Guguen, founder and CEO of French digital marketing agency Map Emulsion, said digital technologies certainly were a strong way forward to address ‘greenwashing’.

‘We want to supply secure information to the consumer’

“One out of two brands are not telling the truth. So, that’s greenwashing we want to stop, and we want to supply secure information to the consumer,”​ Guguen told attendees at the Sustainable Cosmetics Summit earlier this month in Paris, France.

Beyond the potential soon-to-be legal requirements for products in the EU, he said the need for secure sustainable information was timelier than ever also because of the ongoing climate crisis and burgeoning consumer demands around transparency.

“The new generation are asking for change, they are aware. The younger generation is asking us to move and to be transparent,”​ he said.

There was also an increasing need for transparency in beauty specifically, given counterfeiting continued to be a significant problem, alongside fake online product reviews, prompting retailers and consumers to demand extra information, he said.

Using digital passports in beauty was the smart way forward, Guguen said, but an industry-wide transition had to be made now.

Beauty product passports

Outlining how, exactly, these product passports could benefit brands and manufacturers, Guguen said they enabled proof of origin, authenticity and quality to tackle counterfeiting; could be used to bring evidence around certifications, labels and commitments; and provided data on supply chain traceability for retailers and consumers alike.

“Your passport is living information and it will bring more information, time after time,”​ he said.

And once uptake widened in the beauty industry, so too would business opportunities associated with the technology, he said. These digital passports, for example, would make development of NFTs and metaverse stories far simpler, he said.

Guguen said Map Emulsion believed blockchain was the way forward in the development of digital product passports – the tech behind its patented SORGA tool that launched last year.

Why? “First, for the security (…) With a blockchain system, and we’re using Bitcoin for the fact it’s very long-life and robust, everything is copied in more than 30,000 computers, synchronised together.” ​Blockchain also didn’t belong to any one company, he said, which was important when dealing with valuable data.

Looking ahead, Map Emulsion planned to work closely with its partners using SORGA digital passports to adapt and evolve the offering, eventually replacing barcodes with GS1 digital links in the coming years. “And, of course, we are preparing a great digital experience for creative brands who want to use the passport for the metaverse or creating NFTs​.

“…We propose to move from constraints to opportunity​,” he said.

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