Smarter Business: Standards & Metrics

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Key Facts

Launched in 2002, Cradle to Cradle certification is the brainchild of the McDonough Braungart Design Chemistry (MBDC), LLC consulting firm, established to provide a comprehensive sustainability certification that takes into account impacts on human and environmental health and product recyclability. As of June, 2010, the certification is being gradually transferred to the non-profit Green Products Innovation Institute, since renamed the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute. Founded in 2009, this institute assists the State of California in implementing its 2008 green chemistry initiative by identifying “chemicals of concern” in consumer products as well as healthier alternatives.

The “cradle to cradle” (C2C) concept asserts that “sustainable design, based on the laws of nature, can transform the consumer economy into a regenerative force.” Stemming from this concept, the program’s five criteria include: Material Health, Material Reutilization, Renewable Energy Use, Water Stewardship, and Social Responsibility.

The Institute currently certifies building materials, interior design products, paper and packaging, personal care products, textiles and fabrics, and a miscellany of other products.

Final certification is split into four progressively more demanding levels of sustainability: Basic, Silver, Gold, and Platinum. To gain certification a product must achieve the same rank in all five criteria. C2C certifications are verified by an independent third-party auditor.

To assist companies in developing products  suitable for certificiation, the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute website offers an "Innovation Hub" forum for posing questions to experts and practitioners and locating suppliers.


As noted on the MBDC website, certification can range from $5,000 to more than $75,000, depending on the chemical complexity of the product or line of products (estimates are available here). The Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute is creating a list of assessors to help companies comply with the certification standards.

Pros  & Cons


C2C-certified building products are eligible for points in USGBC’s LEED Rating system.

C2C-certified products may be eligible to sell to federal agencies through the U.S. EPA Environmentally Preferable Purchasing Program.


The certification standards were developed without broad public participation.

The Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute is still building recognition and has certified only 300 products.


Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things (North Point Press, 2002)by William McDonough and Michael Braungart provides a guide to the basic concepts behind the C2C concept.

Cradle to Cradle Product Innovation Institute

MBDC Cradle to Cradle certification page


last revised 6/16/2011

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