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Cradle to Cradle: from ‘nice to have’ to absolutely distinctive

“The Cradle to Cradle philosophy is on the threshold of its next, grown-up phase,” states Udo Waltman in this last part of the triptych on the development of Cradle to Cradle. Waltman is Director of SGS Search and the honorary chairman for the day during the ‘Circular construction in one day’ seminar.

“Cradle to Cradle certification until recently concerned mostly construction materials,” explains Waltman. “The construction sector is particularly intensive in its use of energy and raw materials. Construction is also about large volumes, which means the impact here is fairly large-scale. SGS Search is also active in the construction sector, so over the last few years we have mainly certified products that have a link to the building industry, such as window and door profiles, interior walls, solar panels and floors.”

Also for consumer products

According to Waltman, the Cradle to Cradle philosophy is now entering into a next, more grown-up phase. “It's no longer just construction-related. There is also an increasing demand for the Cradle to Cradle approach for consumer products such as clothes and toys. Which makes sense really! In about twenty years’ time, we not only want to live in a healthy house, built with safe and reusable construction materials, but we’ll also want to have healthy clothing and articles that are free of harmful chemical substances.”

This heralded the start of the Fashion Positive initiative. A number of large chains and brands such as G-Star, Stella McCartney and H&M have since joined the movement. The objective is to make their entire production chain fully Cradle to Cradle: reusable, free of chemical substances and sustainably produced, with a keen eye on the social aspects.

Cradle to Cradle in its grown-up phase

“The percentage of Cradle to Cradle clothing is still very small,” says Waltman. “But now that a number of larger brands have come on board, things can only accelerate. If two producers switch entirely to using materials certified by Cradle to Cradle, then you really would start making a difference. Like any technological development or revolution things start small, with a few forerunners. Cradle to Cradle has now reached the tipping point: it's no longer the pet project of a few dreaming idealists, but is now being taken on board by some really significant players.”

A good example is Google's new head office in London. Waltman: “Google made strict demands regarding the sustainability and reusability of the materials used in this mega office development. They set up a database with approved materials. Materials certified by Cradle to Cradle at the silver level were included on the list by default. A Cradle to Cradle certificate is therefore no longer just a nice marketing tool, because in examples such as this project it also imparts a distinctive quality. That's a real incentive for delivering Cradle to Cradle products, as these are the projects that really matter.”