Estimated duration
3 Years
Estimated total value
Europe; Northern America; Asia
Shaw Industries, Inc.; Organization of American States (OAS); Nationale Postcode Loterij; Healthy Building Network; U.S. Green Building Council; Steelcase Inc.; McDonough Braungart Design Chemistry (MBDC); Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute

Cradle to Cradle Certification


Founders McDonough and Braungart have gifted their certification program for evaluating products to their new non-profit, the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute, based in California, to create an open innovation platform for positive product development. The Institute will administer the Cradle to Cradle (C2C) certification standard, provide training materials, and certify a community of assessors who issue product certifications. It will also oversee the evolution of the next generation of the Cradle to Cradle certification protocol. The Institute is built around four key components:
-Government Engagement: Supporting the incorporation of C2C certification into robust state-level legislation, beginning with California’s Safer Products Act (AB 1879). The Institute is eager to collaborate with CA DTSC to provide companies, government and consumers with data on the toxicity characteristics of chemicals and materials used in products so that industry can not only identify ‘chemicals of concern,’ but also the ‘positive’ chemicals that could be used to replace them. The Institute’s goal is to effectively coordinate with the CA DTSC to find practical solutions to the alternatives problem – offering industry a pathway to comply with, and even exceed, new consumer product regulations. The fruits of this partnership will help make the regulatory program more efficient and effective while engaging the industry’s unique capability to innovate quickly. Its goal is to see the C2C certification recognized as a viable alternative assessment methodology as articulated by the new Safer Products Act (AB 1879).
-Cradle to Cradle Certification: There are currently 90 companies representing over 300 products that carry the C2C certification. This commitment is to raise that to 1,000 certified products in the next 5 years. The Institute will immediately begin certifying (and recertifying existing clients) under the existing protocol. Two major industrial leaders will announce their Cradle to Cradle certification commitment:
Shaw Industries, part of Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway, and the largest carpet manufacturer in the world. As a company that currently makes 15% of its product wholly C2C certified with 62% partially certified, Shaw will bring the 15% figure to 50% by 2015. Thus half of its total product line, currently representing over billion in sales worldwide and 30,000 employees, will be products that are safe for human and environmental health.
Steelcase, the world’s largest office furniture manufacturer, representing nearly billion in sales and over 13,000 employees. Steelcase already has 21 products certified Cradle to Cradle, but will announce its first product for the education sector, ‘Node,’ that will also be certified. Steelcase understands the critical need for healthy indoor air quality in schools and is now entering that market to demonstrate its commitment.
Following these initial certifications, the Institute will collaborate, along with other selected NGO and academic leaders, with McDonough Braungart Design Chemistry (MBDC) in the creation of the next version of the protocol.
-Trained Partners: The Institute will train and certify assessors, called ‘Licensed Assessment Partners (LAPs),’ who will assist companies in complying with the certification requirements and regulatory requirements, such as those about to be implemented in California by the Department of Toxic Substances Control.
3. Open Tools: The Institute is developing an open, public database that tracks product chemical data and also creates a list of ‘positive’ alternative chemicals, materials and processes. This will help companies reformulate or retool to create new products. Dr. Lauren Heine, previously the Chief Scientist for Green Blue and Clean Production Action, will serve as the lead advisor in developing this database. With Lauren, the Institute has conducted several meetings with major technology providers, including SAP and The WERCs, to discuss ideas for structuring a back-end system that meets both certification and manufacturer needs.
Develop a detailed RFP for technology companies to bid on the development of the database (October 2010)
Design database structure to allow for the protection of proprietary company data around product information while still enabling sharing of specific data for assessment partners and the public (April 2011)
Integrate existing chemical classification information from sponsoring entity, MBDC, and from known data pools (such as EPAs Design for the Environment), to pre-populate the database (June 2011)
Formulate the new standard and training: develop content for the protocol and the associated training programs for the Licensed Assessment Partners as follows:
Develop training material from existing protocol (October 5, 2010)
Conduct initial training sessions (Week of October 19, 2010)
Draft of chemical and material methodology for version 3 of the new protocol (December 13, 2010)
Complete documentation of version 3 protocol (February 1, 2011)
Complete version 3 training materials (February 15, 2011)
Conduct trainings and license 20 professional assessors per year for total of 100 by 2015 (2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015)
Establish additional Institutes in China and the Netherlands (2012, 2013)
Announce the certification of Steelcase and Shaw Industries along with other first certifications (October 2010)
Certify 1,000 new products (ongoing through 2015)


Imagine a world where all products are made with ingredients that are safe and healthy for the environment, where products are either recycled or composted, made with renewable energy, use water that ends up cleaner than it started, and everyone making these products is paid a fair wage – this is the premise behind Cradle to Cradle (C2C). William McDonough and Dr. Michael Braungart have been using this process with companies worldwide for nearly 15 years.
Worldwide, well over 100,000 man-made chemicals are used in industry. Many are known to be toxic to human, animal and plant life. While impossible to determine precise numbers, it is estimated that every year many children are born with birth defects and scores die due to exposure to toxic chemicals. These tragedies are easily avoidable, since most products can be designed and manufactured without toxic chemicals. While the environmental movement has recently enjoyed great traction in the commercial sector, most companies, including some of the most forward-thinking, continue to experience three problems: they do not design with the end in mind; they design their products to be ‘less bad’ and not restorative or beneficial to people and the planet; and if they did desire to do the first two, they lack the resources to reformulate or redesign their products in such a way.
For example, many manufacturers and even eco-labels, favor recycled content. However, the C2C approach requires that all produced goods become healthy ‘food’ for other systems. Thus, under our certification system, if a manufacturer is recycling PVC, a known toxin, in such a way that it continues to be exposed to the public and jeopardize the health of those in the factories making it, it is not creating any environmental benefit. However, if a particularly known hazardous chemical, such as lead, is properly contained, taken back, and not exposed to humans or the natural ecosystem, it might be certified, for that use, as not dangerous. These are complicated issues that require holistic thinking against a multi-factor standard. The Institute will address this by training an army of professional assessors and helping companies design their own action plans for how to redesign their products using the C2C certification program.
Government support will be important to the success of this effort. California’s environmental policies have created a unique opportunity for the C2C thinking to grow and flourish as a public-private partnership. Between 2005 and 2008, Governor Schwarzenegger signed the nation’s first law requiring disclosure of chemical ingredients in cosmetics; a law creating a bio-monitoring program to measure human exposure to chemicals; and a landmark, first-in-the-nation law that creates the toughest, most comprehensive regulatory regime in the country for identifying harmful chemicals in consumer products and requiring manufacturers of those products to evaluate safer alternatives. This law also gives authority to California’s Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) to take action based on the risk data and alternatives available, with responses that range from no action to requiring additional research to imposing restrictions on use and even banning the use of a chemical outright.

Progress Update

March 2013
The Institute has met its CGI commitment to train 100 professionals and certify 1000 products. Over 600 architects, designers, and manufacturing executives have been trained to evaluate products and purchasing decisions using the Cradle to Cradle Certified CM Products methodology. The Institute has awarded 99 certifications since 2011 covering an estimated 1500 products. Each certificate recognizes a commitment by the manufacturer and its suppliers to continuous quality improvement and product group optimization. Certificates are awarded to product groups, which in turn can represent dozens, even hundreds of individual products. For example, the 6 certificates awarded to SportsLifestyle giant PUMA apply to 39 products.
With one company alone, Shaw industries, the Institute’s certified products program has prevented 100,000 tons of materials from reaching landfills and incinerators. Using US EPA estimates, this means 200,000 metric tons carbon equivalent saved from the atmosphere.
Also, by September, 2013, the Institute will have completed its first-ever impact study to establish a framework for measuring the environmental, social, and economic impacts of pursuing Cradle to Cradle Certified Product Program. This includes the number and quantity of toxicants removed from everyday products, the amount of materials recycled for use by industry, tons of greenhouse gases saved, and the millions of gallons of fresh water created or preserved.

Partnership Opportunities

NOTE: This Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) Commitment to Action is made, implemented, and tracked by the partners listed. CGI is a program dedicated forging new partnerships, providing technical support, and elevating compelling models with potential to scale. CGI does not directly fund or implement these projects.