June 2010

Volume 19, Number 6

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Major Changes Underway With Cradle to Cradle Certification

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McDonough Braungart Design Chemistry (MBDC) is in the process of transferring the Cradle to Cradle Certification system to the Green Products Innovation Institute (GPII), a recently formed, California-based nonprofit organization. In a high-profile news conference at the Google headquarters in Mountain View, California, on May 20, 2010, William McDonough was joined by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Global Green executive director Matt Peterson, and leaders of Herman Miller, Shaw, and YouTube in announcing the formation of GPII, which is focused on “transforming the making and consumption of things into a regenerative force for the planet.”

GPII will take over the review of Cradle to Cradle applications and issue certifications. Over the next few years, GPII will gradually assume management and further development of the Cradle to Cradle Certification protocols. To date, 100 companies have engaged in the Cradle to Cradle process, and 300 products currently carry the certification.

According the James Ewell, the director of consulting for MBDC, the transfer of the certification program to GPII was driven partly by confusion about the program and criticism that the party responsible for administration and maintenance of the program was not separate from the party that helps companies comply with the program requirements (see the feature article “Cradle to Cradle Certification: A Peek Inside the Black Box” in EBN Feb. 2007 and the editorial “Fixing the Perception Problem with Cradle to Cradle Certification” in EBN Mar. 2010). “We had a conflict of interest—at least it was perceived that way,” Ewell told EBN. Under GPII, Cradle to Cradle Certification will be bestowed by an organization separate from MBDC.

In managing the Cradle to Cradle Certification system, GPII will train and certify assessors (called “Licensed Assessment Partners” or LAPs), who will assist manufacturers in complying with certification requirements as well as regulations of the California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC). MBDC will help the Institute train LAPs until the Institute has the capacity to do so on its own. “In other words, we’ll help create our own competition,” quips Ken Alston, CEO of MBDC. In this process, MBDC will itself become an LAP and will continue to consult with the industry to apply the Cradle to Cradle framework to product and process design.

GPII also plans to develop an open, public database that “tracks product chemical data and also creates a list of ‘positive’ alternative chemicals, materials, and processes.” Companies that participate in the GPII process will “voluntarily share information about the chemistry of their materials, along with manufacturing processes, to help transform the industry as a whole,” according to the organization’s website. To protect manufacturers’ intellectual property, part of the database will be proprietary. The characteristics of specific chemicals used in these proprietary formulations will become part of the publicly available portion of the database and will be used in creating a list of chemicals, materials, and processes that are deemed to be safe.

During the transition period, MBDC will spend four to six months creating a Version 3 of the Cradle to Cradle certification system, which the institute will adopt and roll out. When asked whether Version 3 of Cradle to Cradle will fix the terminology problem that EBN addressed in the above-referenced editorial (that at the lower levels of certification, Cradle to Cradle isn’t really certification, but rather more of a review process), Alston told EBN that he thinks that concern will be resolved. “I’d say it is highly likely that there will be a “non-certified” lower level in the next generation of the certification program,” he said.

– Alex Wilson

For more information:

Green Products Innovation Institute

San Francisco, California


McDonough Braungart Design Chemistry

Charlottesville, Virginia



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June 1, 2010