Continuous Product Improvement, By Design
Biological and Technological Ecosystems
Driving change across the whole product life cycle, the Cradle to Cradle principles encompass the following good design practices:
• Selection of materials that are safer for people and the environment
• Continuous re-use of biological and technological nutrients
• Use of renewable energy and carbon management during production
• Improvement of product/process chemistry to achieve better discharge water quality
• Engaging with the supply chain to promote good working conditions and fairness
The principles encourage designers to rethink the way they work, and to make products aiming at “more good” instead of just “less bad”. The idea of “more good” means designing products that are safer and can re-enter the technological or biological ecosystems, rather than just mitigating impacts.
Gathering the inventory of materials implies characterizing the chemical composition of the materials that make up the product. This helps to identify harmful materials that, when in contact with people and the environment, can cause health issues and environmental damage.
The first step involves screening the product’s bill of materials for banned chemicals – those that are scientifically known to cause harm to human health and the natural environment. Next, the materials are assessed on how they are utilized within the product as well as the potential exposure pathways during manufacture, use, and end of life. This determines the potential level of harm, with each material assessed and ranked on a low to high risk scale. Ideally, all the materials can be characterized and will not contain carcinogenic, mutagenic or reproductive disruptor chemicals. The aim is for the materials in the product to be cycled back to biological or technological ecosystems.
Cradle to Cradle in practice
The growing pressure on producers to tackle environmental issues and adopt circular economy practices fails to take account of the time and experience required to do so successfully. Implementing the Cradle to Cradle framework requires changes in mindset and traditional business practices – not something that’s likely to happen overnight.
However, aided by experts on Cradle to Cradle methodology and following the Cradle to Cradle™ Products Program, producers from different industries are now using these principles in a wide range of product categories. Examples include the built environment, beauty and personal care, furniture, and toys and juvenile products.
The Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute recognizes the efforts being made towards the circular economy by certifying products based on their level of alignment with the Cradle to Cradle standard requirements. Certifying a product (or a group of products, if they have a similar composition and perform the same function) demonstrates the leadership of a company and positions the product above its competitors.
Cradle to Cradle Certified products are recognized and highly rewarded within various environmental schemes. Examples include Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) that assigns points to building products that are Cradle to Cradle certified, helping the overall rating of a building for LEED certification. Google Portico rewards Cradle to Cradle certified products with the highest potential score because they are risk assessed, helping designers make informed design choices for Google’s facilities. Target includes Cradle to Cradle Certified Products within its preferred supplier list, based upon the company’s score card. This card recognizes suppliers of quality products that are safer for consumers and the environment, and also awards points for Cradle to Cradle Product Certification.
SGS is committed to helping brands and retailers be ahead of the curve by assessing products and determining their progress towards “more good”. As an Accredited General Assessor, SGS can help designers understand the requirements of the Cradle to Cradle program, assess products and propose ways for the optimization of products and production processes where certification is sought. In addition, SGS is able to reduce the cost of the General Assessment due to its global network.
As more companies adopt the Cradle to Cradle methodology, consumers will enjoy quality products that have a better footprint and perhaps endless productive cycles.
For further information, please contact:
Ana Maria Leal Yepes
Sustainable Design Consultant
SGS North America
t: +1-(862) 217-3706
SGS is the world’s leading inspection, verification, testing and certification company. SGS is recognized as the global benchmark for quality and integrity. With more than 85,000 employees, SGS operates a network of over 1,800 offices and laboratories around the world.
1, Mons Calpe
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