Cradle to Cradle: A Solid Foundation for a Circular Economy

What happens to the materials in your products after they’ve been used? Do they get thrown out? Recycled? Upcycled? What about the manufacturing processes: are they based on renewable energy, or are they wasteful? Your products are leaving a lasting impression on the world; is it a positive one?

The Cradle to CradleTM concept secures positive impact. It is an assessment of the processes and materials that a company uses to make a product, and the viability of the materials’ reusability after market. Materials are categorised as either biological or technical nutrients. At the end of the products’ life they are returned, respectively, to the environment -where they decompose-, or to a manufacturer or recycling program where they are reused.

Similar to a Cradle to Grave assessment -which determines the toxicity and use of materials and processes for one lifespan of a product- but improved, Cradle to CradleTM makes use of infinite supply loops in which all of the manufacturing materials can be responsibly disposed of or reused.

Post-consumer trash is piling up, becoming more and more harmful and expensive to dispose of. Landfill costs are rising while reclaimed materials are growing in efficiency, and customers are interested in responsible products. Cradle to CradleTM, the system of processes McDonough and partners have outlined regarding design thinking, supports responsible businesses and lays the groundwork for a circular economy.

William McDonough, a founder and pioneer of the Cradle to CradleTM concept and renowned global leader in sustainable development, has been confirmed as a speaker at the Sustainable Brands summit in Barcelona (22nd to 24th of May, 2016). He is a member of the World Economic Forum’s Meta-Council on circular economy. Time magazine named him “Hero for the Planet” indicating: “His utopianism is grounded in a unified philosophy that -in demonstrable and practical ways- is changing the design of the world.” He has received the Presidential Award for Sustainable Development (1996), the first US EPA Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Awards for his work with Shaw Industries (2003), and the National Design Award thanks to exemplary success in environmental design (2004).

“Design is the first signal of human intention,” says McDonough, whose interests and influence range widely as he works at scales from the global to the molecular. He advises commercial and governmental leaders worldwide, and a C2C certification is available through the non-profit he co-founded, the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute.

Cradle to Cradle is a pattern for sustainability, fighting against the “take-make-dispose” industrial system still dominant worldwide. The methodology is explained as the first steps of circular economy: through ethical business planning and product creation we can implement real sustainability. Starting with environmentally friendly factory construction; all the way through the life cycle of product design, fabrication, and use; to post-consumer return of materials to responsible corporations which reuse the technical nutrients. Creating a biomimetic cycle is what Cradle to Cradle is all about. This design is a precursor of sustainability and we cannot stress enough the importance of this guru as a pioneer of global change.

Sustainable Brands Barcelona is honoured to have McDonough himself to speak about Cradle to CradleTM, among other great speakers, as we discuss the current and future steps taking us towards a circular economy, ethical brands and businesses, and greater sustainability practices worldwide.