Trucost Blog / 12 Jun 2014

Be more good, not less bad

This month saw the launch of the Cradle to Cradle Certified Products Program Impact Study, a pilot study assessing the environmental and business benefits of certification in ten companies.

Society as we know it is unsustainable. Business as usual involves producing and consuming products in a linear fashion – that is to make, sell, use and dispose. In a world constricted by depleting resources and a build-up of waste and pollution, such a system cannot last.

We need to find an alternative to products that rely on extracting non-renewable and often toxic materials that impact human health and ecological well-being, which are then disposed of to landfill or incineration when no longer wanted.

Cradle to Cradle Certified products challenge business as usual. Products that achieve this quality mark are manufactured in a way that reflects a continuous, circular system in which they are designed to be reused and not lost as waste. Ultimately, the certification scheme aspires to encourage products that bring positive benefit to people and the planet, becoming ‘more good’ rather than ‘less bad’.

But what are the tangible benefits that certification actually delivers to the environment, society, and not least for business? This is what the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute commissioned Trucost to work out.

This month saw the launch of the Cradle to Cradle Certified Products Program Impact Study – a pilot study featuring the development of a methodology to capture these benefits trialled over 10 companies offering Cradle to Cradle Certified products. The study reviewed the impact of these products, ranging from carpet tiles to shampoo, compared to equivalent products without certification.  Companies in the report include AGC Glass EuropeAvedaConstruction SpecialtiesDessoEcoverMosaPumaShaw IndustriesSteelcase, and Van Houtum.

What we found was exciting! Firstly, the certified products demonstrate overall reduction of negative impacts to human well-being through improved material use, cleaner energy and lower water consumption. In addition, through use of recycled content, and reuse and recycling of products at end-of-use, displacement of virgin materials actually brings a positive benefit to human well-being. Pilot study companies also demonstrated cost reductions through lower energy and water consumption and improved security of supply through take-back schemes and material reuse. Many of the companies reported increased demand for certified products, for instance, with C2C Certified products being credited within green procurement standards such as LEED.

This study is a first step to capture the wider benefits of certification. Companies interested in certification, or those already producing certified products, can read the report here to better understand how it could be used to calculate their own impacts and the benefits of reducing them. The research highlights the importance of changing company mind-sets to embrace a shift to sustainable, regenerative business models.

The Sustainable Development Goals give meaning and purpose, not just to corporate sustainability programs, but to an organization’s business objectives.

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