For ten years, Prof. Dr. Michael Braungart, Head of EPEA has been a global advocate of the Cradle-to-cradle principle for a more creative use of the world's resources. We talked to him about Cradle to cradle (C2C) and the economic relevance of this movement. You can read the first part of the interview here.
Cradle-to-cradle is a culture of support. It wants to help people to be as they want to be. In this context the most successful results are now to be found in Dutch companies. One such example is office furniture manufacturers Ahrend near Eindhoven, which moved across to C2C ten years ago.
"In this context Ahrend chose the colour code of black, because there is no such thing as a green that is "green". Green is the worst of all pigments. If you want to protect the environment, then make sure you always buy a black Porsche rather than a green one! Green may be extreme ly stable but if steel coated with green is recycled, then dioxins and other hazardous substances are released."
If you want to protect the environment, then make sure you buy a black Porsche rather than a green one!
Other manufacturers such as Herman Miller and Steelcase, in addition to Goodbaby, a Chinese manufacturer of children's buggies, are now investing in revising their ranges. The success that can be achieved with the consistent realisation of the concept is evident with the example of Dutch paper producers van Houtum, who reinvented tissue paper with C2C, thereby becoming one of the most profitable companies in their field.
"They can therefore change their processes more quickly, and the customer says: "It's great that you're making a profit, as things then progress more quickly."
This also means other models of communication. In this context, for instance, van Houtum has posted small notices in the bathrooms at Schiphol Airport which say: "Please wash your hands thoroughly, we want the paper back." The reason is as simple as it is clear:
"Tissue paper soaked with dirty water is bad news in terms of disposal. With its notice, Houtum has raised awareness among the consumers and is actually now getting an extremely clean material back. This is very profitable."
Cradle-to Cradle as business model
This example also shows how C2C is more than just an environmentally friendly production method, it is also a new business model which needs to be conveyed to the consumer accordingly:
"The company is actually saying: "Hey, look how much progress I have made with my Cradle-to-cradle mission, I have already achieved something. I may not be perfect, but I want to be by 2020. And the more you buy, the faster I progress." In this way, the customer becomes my friend. I make a business plan and say: "This is where I am now, and if I am economically successful, this is where I will be in five years' time, and in ten years' time I can be there and there. But it is up to you, valued customer, to help me!"
In this way, the customer becomes a change agent, or the person who tells the company they are consciously and actively supporting their transformation. They share the commitment and also encourage it through their choice and their consumption. Cradle-to-cradle is not limited to a changed production technique but represents a new and holistic business model. For this reason, many are talking of a second industrial revolution:
"For this reason we not only need different products and a different consumer conscientiousness, but also different logistics systems, different distribution systems, and a form of customer communication different to the traditional approach."
Ecological, sustainable and pollutant-free, biodegradable – the Cradle-to-cradle principle represents a philosophy for the cycle of resources. Its aim is to allow for the problem-free return of the raw materials even during production. With innovative production processes and a new awareness it is possible to produce products the components of which aren't only harmless to people, but also the environment. And on a distinctly economical basis.
The Upcycle: Beyond Sustainability – Designing for Abundance
In the long-awaited sequel to the Cradle-to-cradle manifesto, the authors discuss the next steps out of the environmental crisis. We are not only recycling resources with the greatest levels of effectiveness, we are also improving them at the same time. An inspiring tour through the next industrial revolution. The book was published in April 2013.