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Prince Charles: Consumers ‘Have a Right to Know’ About Product Sustainability

A new digital tagging system, designed to help consumers make eco-friendlier choices and facilitate circular business models, just received the royal seal of approval.

Speaking at the British ambassador’s residence in Rome during the Group of 20 summit on Sunday, Britain’s Prince Charles praised the efforts of the Sustainable Markets Initiative’s Fashion Taskforce efforts to incorporate Digital ID into the labels of new items from brands such as Brunello Cucinelli, Burberry, Chloé, Gabriella Hearst, Giorgio Armani, Mulberry and Stella McCartney.

“People have the right to know if what they buy is created sustainably and there is a responsibility to tell them if we truly believe in the shared principles of transparency, accountability and enforcement,” said the future king, who assembled the group earlier this year to nudge the global fashion sector in a more sustainable direction. “Fashion is one of the most polluting sectors in the world, but this new Digital ID shows how business is committed to meaningful, measurable change: providing customers with the information they need to make cleaner, healthier and more sustainable choices. It shows that business doesn’t just talk about these issues, but has taken action.”

Digital ID on Chloé garment
The Digital ID will take the form of a QR code that anyone can scan with a smartphone. Courtesy

Chaired by Federico Marchetti, founder of the Yoox Net-a-Porter Group, the Fashion Taskforce includes executives from the aforementioned brands; retailers Moda Operandi, Selfridges, Vestiaire Collective and Zalando; and New York startup Eon, whose protocol underpins the Digital ID, a “digital twin” that takes the form of a QR code that anyone can scan with a smartphone.

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Imbuing products with a Digital ID will not only supply consumers with “sustainability credentials” such as material composition and manufacturing origin, the Fashion Taskforce says, but it will also enable them to unlock information about how to care for, repair and responsibly part with their purchases through resale or recycling channels. At the same time, manufacturers, brands, retailers, resellers and recyclers will be able to leverage this “digital product passport” to track tagged items past their point of sale, allowing them to be easily identified and authenticated for resale, renting, sharing or end-of-life management.

The QR codes will begin appearing on clothing in next year’s fall/winter collections. The Fashion Taskforce, which plans to create a permanent steering committee, will also explore other potential solutions to the industry’s negative impact on the planet, such as regenerative farming.

“The time for only talk is over,” said Marchetti. “In such a highly competitive industry it is unprecedented for so many different brands and platforms from all around the world to work together on a single innovative solution, and I am delighted to say this commitment is the result of an incredible group of companies and their leaders who recognize there is no time left to lose in transitioning the industry to a more transparent and sustainable footing.”

The Digital ID “provides a genuine opportunity for consumers to make truly sustainable choices when they are making their purchases,” he added. “In an industry that needs to do so much more to improve its impact on the environment, this is a huge step forward and only the beginning of the Taskforce’s journey.”