Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute: Pushing a Safe and Just Circular Economy Into the Mainstream

The sustainability landscape has evolved considerably since William
and Michael
first wrote
Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things
in 2002, and the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation
was founded more than a decade ago.
Now operating as an independent, nonprofit organization, the institute — led by
President and CEO Dr. Christina
— continues to push
boundaries with its work: leveraging the latest scientific research and
increasingly connected world to help power the shift to a circular economy and
set the global standard for materials, products and systems that positively
impact people and the planet.

As part of Shaw’s sustain[HUMAN]ability® Leadership
Recognition Program
, VP of Global Sustainability and Innovation Kellie
recently spoke with Dr. Raab about the evolving, interconnected nature
of sustainability.

KB: At Shaw, we have long valued the Cradle to Cradle® design principles because of the holistic focus on the planet AND people. What drove that dual, or multi-attribute, focus from the onset?

CR: We recognize that we live in an interconnected world. If we look at
nature, at society and at the economy, all impact each other. This
interconnectivity is reflected in the Cradle to Cradle design principles, and
has also been translated into the Cradle to Cradle Certified® Product

framework. Cradle to Cradle concepts redefine the value of resources, of
materials and, ultimately, eliminate the concept of waste — which was a key
inspiration for the framework.

KB: How has that landscape changed since Cradle to Cradle Certified was first introduced?

CR: The discussion around sustainability has become more well-rounded and
more interconnected. Maybe 10 years ago, many of the sustainability topics were
looked at in isolation. The current discussion certainly has become more
holistic. The landscape now also has a more science-based approach.

We’ve also observed that sustainability has moved in the past decade from
commitment or intention to action and implementation. That’s something that has
been long demanded by stakeholders and by society to demonstrate measurable
progress of sustainability. Getting Cradle to Cradle Certified is not a one-time
effort. There is the expectation to optimize to higher levels of achievement
over time. It is about continuous improvement — constantly challenging oneself.
This is why we require recertification every two years.

It’s great to see sustainability become a greater part of the conversation
within society and industry — from climate change to diversity and inclusion.
Priorities or specific topics certainly vary but it truly feels as if
sustainability, however you define it, has arrived.

KB: How has the Institute’s work adapted to address the evolution that you just described?

CR: The program and the standards are living systems and are constantly
evolving to address the latest scientific findings and current and emerging best
practices in the market.

We are in the fourth iteration of the Cradle to Cradle Certified Product
Standard. Two categories in the current version illustrate this in particular:
product circularity and social fairness.

For product
, we
have taken a holistic approach — looking at the sourcing of products, the core
design and the infrastructure that is needed to keep these products in the
cycle. On social fairness, we dive deeper than ever before into diversity,
equity and

at the company level but also at the supply chain and community level. These
were significant evolutions in our program.

Companies are committing to a journey of leadership when they are part of the
program and to developing safe, circular and responsibly made products to the

KB: We’ve certainly seen that since we began developing our first Cradle to Cradle-inspired product in the late ‘90s. As you know, it’s now something that pervades our company with almost 90 percent of the products we manufacture certified to the standard. How has the Institute evolved during that time?

CR: It’s critical that the Institute evolves as well to anticipate, meet and
exceed market and societal needs in order to drive positive change.

Certification has been a key part of our activities, as it has been from the
beginning; but we have placed additional focus in recent years on raising
awareness and building the knowledge around the interconnectivity of
sustainability topics. Collaboration within the industry also is so important to
drive a systemic change when it comes to circularity. We strive to provide
guidance and leadership for the wide range of organizations — from different
industries and parts of the world — that have the opportunity to make a
collective positive impact on the world.

KB: So, what’s next?

CR: Scaling. We want Cradle to Cradle Certified products to be an available
choice across all product categories in the market. That’s long term.

Shorter term, it is very important to continuously refine the circular economy
. Today, so much is still anchored in
and focused on singular attributes of circularity. But it is about recyclability
as well as material health, social fairness and climate action. Our mission is
to get the approach of a safe and just circular economy into the mainstream.

This article is part of a series of articles recognizing the second slate of
organizations to be honored by Shaw’s
Leadership Recognition Program. Each of the 10 organizations selected for
this year’s recognition program
is a leader in its own right and offers
something from which we can all learn about putting people at the heart of
sustainability. To read more about the other organizations recognized by Shaw, visit
landing page for this blog