What is Cradle to Cradle?

Starting an evolution

In 1992, William McDonough and Dr. Michael Braungart published The Hannover Principles: Design for Sustainability. In 2002, they published Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things, encapsulating a journey of discovery about materials as biological or technical nutrients and their use periods and their evolution. They created a framework for quality assessment and innovation: the Cradle to CradleTM certified program.

In 2010, after 20 years of working with companies, they saw a need to scale up the transformation. They gifted a license to the certification system and methodology to the public through the creation of the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation InstituteSM. The non-profit Institute is an agent of change through open source information.


Zero is not our hero

Co-founder Dr. Michael Braungart points out that mankind strives to make a positive impact both economically and socially, but when it comes to the environment, we strive for “zero.” Zero is not a terribly inspiring goal, which may explain why collectively we don’t seem to be in a hurry to get there.

Cradle to Cradle® posits that mankind can have a positive, restorative, beneficial impact on the environment.

A tree, for example, is not “zero-emitting.” It emits oxygen and nutrients for soil, while purifying water and providing habitat for multiple species.

The Cradle to Cradle product certificationTM framework first asks what is the given product’s function: food for natural systems or food for industry. In our world, everything is conceived of, and designed to be, food. When everything – every material, manufacturing process and emission –  is food for one system or the other, then humanity will be indeed benefitting the environment.

» Understanding C2C for products

The Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute’s verified rating system for assessing and constantly improving products is based on five categories –renewable energy, clean water, material health, social responsibility and material reutilization.

This (total quality) framework has been designed to support companies in creating products that are “more good” rather than simply “less bad.” Each of the five categories spell out the steps necessary for transforming products, while the Innovation Hub on the Institute website provides expert and peer advice in how to get there. The result? Industry will achieve new levels of environmental and human health and safety for all products sold to consumers. Products that meet the criteria of the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute’s rating system will receive the Cradle to Cradle Certified trademark.

» Learn how to get started


Cradle to Cradle CertifiedTM and Certified Cradle to CradleTM are trademarks licensed by the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute.