cradle to cradleThe Sustainable Brands ’10 session “Sustainability Leadership: The Making, Marketing and Thinking Behind Cradle to Cradle Companies and Products” took a look at the importance of measures of ingredient toxicity and material recyclability in branding products as healthy and sustaining.They introduced the idea of moving past “meeting regulations” and achieving the minimum requirements to efficiently and effectively using natural resources, designing systems to eliminate the concept of waste, and leadership within one’s industry for design excellence.  They also explained how sustainable business practices build value for an organization including reduced risk and liability, brand differentiation, enhanced reputation and competitive advantage.

by Sofia Ribeiro, founder and co-owner of Kiwano Marketing. Sofia can be found on Linkedin, Twitter and Facebook

I’d like to draw attention to a great workshop that took place today, at  Sustainable Brands 10 titled,’Sustainability Leadership: The Making, Marketing and Thinking Behind Cradle to Cradle Companies and Products”.  It was presented by Jay Bolus, VP of Technical Operations, MBDC and Jessica Switzer of Blue Practice. They provided  great insight into the way we see design.  They presented the concept of moving past “meeting regulations” and achieving the minimum requirements to efficiently and effectively using natural resources, designing systems to eliminate the concept of waste, and leadership within one’s industry for design excellence.    Bolus and Switzer also discussed the importance of measures of ingredient toxicity and material recyclability in branding products as healthy and sustaining.  They also explained how sustainable business practices build value for an organization including reduced risk and liability, brand differentiation, enhanced reputation and competitive advantage; and how the pursuit of a positive vision can inspire investor and customer confidence and strengthen employee commitment, and improve relations with public and private stakeholders.

Until recently, product and service design was often based on a traditional, cradle-to-grave mentality: products are created and used and, once the product becomes obsolete, we throw the product away (Jay Bolus had a great remark: “Away where? We still don’t know, but it’s out of our way”). Well, not anymore. Case in point, the Pacific Gyre, home of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, also described as the Pacific Trash Vortex is a gyre  of marine litter in the central North Pacific Ocean.    Many scientists think that the patch extends over an area ranging from  the size of the state of Texas to one larger than the continental United States. The Patch is characterized by exceptionally high concentrations of plastic, chemical sludge, and other debris that have been trapped by the currents of the North Pacific Gyre.   In a recent study by MBDC, high concentrations of benzine and other chemical products were found on Polly Pocket, the famous children toys’ brand.

“We need to take a really hard look at the way we make stuff,” says Bolus. “Breast milk of women living in industrialized countries is so toxic that it could not be sold in shelves in North America!”

This brings us to the concept of Cradle to Cradle, an innovative way of creating products. Cradle to Cradle strategies introduce us to the concept of ecological intelligence: Does it make sense to make this product in terms of its impact on the environment? How about the impact on consumers?

“Cradle to cradle is a strategy of hope, it’s about sharing the resources and the planet we have,” said William McDonough, co-author of Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things, in a video presented during the session. “It’s about rethinking our role in our planet and on the environment.” Cradle to cradle takes us to the concept of eco design, where the goal is to minimize the negative impact of manufacturing such as pollution and workplace hazards. It’s a design moduled on Nature and inspired by Nature, where every component of a product has a high potential of being recyclable, compostable or reused.

“But it’s not enough to be eco- efficient –  we need to optimize,” says Bolus. Cradle to cradle strategies are based in three key principles:

1. Waste equals food. The ultimate goal with CTC is to eliminate the concept of waste. This is achieved through:

Safe, healthy ingredients

Product design for recyclability and/or compostability

Systems for complete recycling/composting

Reorientation of design principles

2. Use of current solar income. Since waste elimination is the goal, businesses must shift from  oil-based electricity to reneweable sources of energy, such as solar or wind.

3. Celebrate diversity. Diversity is a must in any healthy environment.

“Products can drive behavior change,” says Switzer. Through cradle to cradle strategies, businesses are now ready to embrace the new generation of sustainability.

The bottom-line? Businesses nowadays must be responsible AND innovative not only on how they manufacture, but also on how they use their facilities in the course of their business operations.

Additional Resources

Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things
by William McDonough and Michael Braungart. The authors present a manifesto calling for a new industrial revolution, one that would render both traditional manufacturing and traditional environmentalism obsolete. They offer several compelling examples of corporations that are not just doing less harm–they’re actually doing some good for the environment and their neighborhoods, and making more money in the process.

Video on The Points of Cradle to Cradle Design Protocol Presented by MBDC CEO Ken Alston

Green Products Innovation Institute Cradle to Cradle® Certification Program Information
Jay Bolus is responsible for the development and implementation of MBDC’s Cradle to Cradle Product Certification program.  Read about the Institute launch on the Blue Practice blog.

Design for a Cradle to Cradle Future
Booklet by Steve Bolton presenting an executive vision and management strategy to realize eco-effectiveness. May 2010.

Sustainable Business: Minimization vs. Optimization
White paper outlining MBDC’s perspective on moving from a focus on eco-efficiency and cost savings alone, toward eco-effectiveness, enhanced reputation, innovation and leadership through sustainability.

© 2010, Sofia_Ribeiro. All rights reserved. Do not republish.

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Author: Sofia_Ribeiro (13 Articles)

Sofia Ribeiro is the founder and co-owner of Kiwano Marketing, a green marketing services provider dedicated to support small, sustainable businesses. An experienced marketing professional and a green enthusiast, Sofia has an extensive marketing background across both small businesses and large enterprises throughout Europe and North America. Her expertise lays in guerrilla marketing and Internet marketing techniques, paired with a solid experience in copywriting and industry research. Sofia also manages a green marketing blog at http://www.kiwano.ca/blog.