Cradle to Cradle urgently needs a Dutch public private partnership
Since 2006 there has been a lot of enthusiasm for the recycle concept Cradle to Cradle in the Netherlands. However, late 2007 Hans Weijers, Akzo’s Chief Executive, already predicted that the guru-like status of Cradle to Cradle’s originators, William McDonough and Michael Braungart, wouldn’t last two years.
The Dutch Minister of the Environment already called upon the attendees of a sustainability-conference, to come up with a Dutch name for Cradle to Cradle. Exit McDonough and Braungart? Will a new name for the ultimate model of recycling be introduced? It could very well be that the position of Mr. Weijers and the minister will be proven right in 2009.
If this were to happen, it would be a missed opportunity. The Cradle to Cradle originators being addressed as gurus serves no purpose of course. This should be overcome and is in everyone’s interest. Not in the least in that of McDonough and Braungart themselves.
Let us be alert though not to throw out the baby with the bathwater. Because losing the name Cradle to Cradle (C2C) could turn out to be harmful to many sustainable trends, which currently play out in the Netherlands. And Cradle to Cradle also provides us with an extraordinary opportunity to position the Netherlands as a leading country in sustainable development.
All this makes it expedient for both McDonough and Braungart as well as the Dutch government to start acting and seize control. Because changes for the better have to be made with regard to Cradle to Cradle. Failing to do so will render C2C as ineffective a tool for sustainability as many others. And we cannot afford any more missed opportunities.
Why this is so, we will illustrate below.
1 The business of Cradle to Cradle
C2C as consultancy and certification business
For McDonough and Braungart, C2C currently is mostly a model for consulting on the development of fully recyclable products that adhere to their C2C certification criteria. So far, they’ve certified some odd 150 products. Substantial as this is, this number will hardly change the world.
Considering McDonough and Braungart’s strategy, we don’t expect a massive and broadly supported development and certification of C2C products. This is because C2C consultancy and C2C certification are still kept in the same hands. Their hands.
If a company wishes to develop a C2C product and wishes it to be C2C certified, for the preliminary work it is practically obligatory to work with consultancy firms linked to McDonough and Braungart. On top of that, one can only be certified by certifiers also linked to them. So, currently there is no real competition with respect to C2C. A situation that is not desirable and needs to change.
The opportunities for C2C in case of intra-brand competition
The absence of competition results in a narrow and protected C2C market, damaging the potential of C2C as tool for enhancing sustainability in the Netherlands and elsewhere. Without competition the hourly fees and prices might be to high. Limited competition also results in a decrease and deceleration in the development of C2C products, since all other consultants are excluded.
This means that others will experience the commercial necessity to start offering competing activities under different brand names (the so called ‘inter-brand competition’). Nothing wrong with that, but it doesn’t help a broader sustainability movement around C2C as desired by many. It also contrasts the enthusiasm for C2C in the Netherlands. Enthusiasm that is shared by McDonough and Braungart themselves.
Considering the unique situation in the Netherlands and the distinguishing power of C2C, which we will deal with later on, we have an explicit preference for intra-brand competition. Only intra-brand competition serves a broad sustainable development around C2C. This enables the emergence of the necessary competition also, but a competition that falls under the overarching brand name of Cradle to Cradle.
By using an overarching brand name, the recognition factor for the larger public of effective sustainable development is secured and significantly enhanced. This enables mass communication, which is a requirement for kick-starting a movement towards a worldwide sustainable society.
Intra-brand competition under the name Cradle to Cradle also helps McDonough and Braungart to properly address the increasing criticism that they are receiving.
Explicit criticism on the consultant certifying his own work
In the American media there has already been explicit criticism on the fact that McDonough and Braungart keep the undesirable situation alive where C2C consultancy and C2C certification are still only linked to them. It not only keeps the competition out, but also creates the proverbial situation of the butcher approving his own merchandise. For everyone who is somehow connected to Cradle to Cradle, this provides a risk. And this risk must and can be addressed.
In the Netherlands we should not turn a blind eye. When we do not start to recognise that the current system is contra productive, no improvements can be realised and transparency and objectivity will remain out of reach.
Let’s make sure to emphasise though that we have no reason at all to doubt the sincerity and intentions of McDonough, Braungart and the enterprises linked to them. It’s even understandable that in a start up phase of a certification system, many issues are being dealt with by one party. But in a sensible strategy, McDonough and Braungart would prevent exposure to criticism of this sort for their C2C ideas. The time has come to make the necessary changes.
If this turnaround is not realised soon, it is to be expected that only a limited number of new C2C products will be developed. This would be regrettable, for then we miss the opportunity of large scale product innovation.
The increasing criticism could also adversely effect the inspiring and positive effect C2C has on public opinion in the Netherlands. For lack of a better word, we call this the effect of the ‘story’ of C2C. This unique story can be the driving force behind a broad sustainability movement. This opportunity should not be lost.
2 The story of Cradle to Cradle
A dreamt new world
Besides the products, there’s the story of C2C. Briefly, this story shows us a world where humans live in complete harmony with their environment and ensure through their (economic) activities that they will add value in social and ecological domains. It shows us a world in which production processes will be clean, ecosystems will be integrated in our buildings and cities, products will be disassembled into raw materials again, and consumers will no longer be polluters. The story contains a feasible vision of a dreamt new world, inspiring many.
The story is supported by examples of products, like C2C office chairs. These are now readily sold in the Netherlands. But the idea that people are inspired by an office chair is incorrect. What inspires people is the fact that the chair proves that the story of C2C does not have to be a utopian idea.
McDonough, Braungart and the Wright brothers
McDonough and Braungart are essentially masters in storytelling. That is where their greatest strength lies. It’s like as if in 1903 the Wright brothers would speak to you after their first motorized flight in the history of mankind. A flight that covered 36 meters in 12 seconds.
Imagine the Wright brothers outlining a new future where there will be airplanes that will carry 500 passengers at once across the Atlantic. Who would have chosen to believe this vision in 1903, would have found sufficient proof in their first achievement. Because if one can fly 36 meters, why shouldn’t it be possible to fly 360 meters, or 3600 and why not trans Atlantic at some future moment in time?
3 The emotion Cradle to Cradle
Stop the ‘no, we can’t’
It is the same with C2C as it is with motorized air-travel. When one can make a chair by applying this concept, why in due course not a building, a television or an airplane? When buildings can generate more energy than they need to operate, why wouldn’t all of our buildings become sources of clean energy?
And when a polluted area can be transformed into a manufacturing site, where people enjoy to work and where vegetation, clean water and birds return, why could not every housing and city development create added value in social and ecological domains?
The idea of a C2C world inspires people to trade in the old ‘no, we can’t’ adagio for a ‘yes, we can’ mentality. It inspires people into action, without regressing into unattainable idealism. It challenges people to be more ambitious, to think bigger and dare to dream.
In this time where the Netherlands and the world are threatened by climate change, resulting in the need to bring about a rapid and massive transition towards a sustainable energy regime, this asset of C2C is very valuable.
4 The Cradle to Cradle Energy transition
The peaceful revolution of his Royal Highness
When his Royal Highness Prince Willem Alexander of the Netherlands pleaded at the World Future Energy Summit for a peaceful revolution, leading towards a new sustainable energy regime with an important role for solar energy, we know that sustainability is no longer a party-political issue. It has become a necessity and a primary life support issue. Something that concerns everyone in the Netherlands, and in the rest of the world.
The Prince’s vision that solar energy should play an important role in the energy transition, is in line with the C2C axiom ‘use current solar income’. But how to bring about this transition when one of the most heard ‘no, we can’t’ - arguments is that nobody wants solar, since ‘it’s not economically attractive yet’? Needless to say, this doesn’t motivate much.
The government can create popular support for an energy transition by using C2C
Many put the blame for the demotivating situation sketched above with the government and there is something to say for that. The reason is evident. The question whether or not certain technical innovative solutions are economically viable, flow from ‘law and economics’. It is a consequence of political choices.
When we have to wait until the OPEC-cartel influences the prices in such a manner that it urges us to switch to solar energy, we can wait until kingdom come. We have to be bold enough to make choices. Bold choices. And these demand broad public support. And this broad support can be created with the story of C2C as a mass media tool.
People will be more easily inspired by the idea that we roll up our sleeves to be the first nation to start the transition towards a solar powered circular economy (since this is what C2C basically represents). More easily then by the idea that we’ll continue bickering about whether CCS (Carbon Capture and Storage) or nuclear power are solutions for a sustainable world. When the latter are the solutions for a sustainable future, this will generate little enthusiasm and won’t unite society at large.
5 The Cradle to Cradle Public Private Partnership
An open structure for C2C
In order to make C2C a success in the Netherlands and elsewhere, as well as to be able to connect it to the energy transition and use it as a tool for mass communication, the Dutch government and McDonough and Braungart will have to cooperate on an open structure around C2C. Guaranteeing the quality of the concept, as well as the interests of both, is of the essence. Then this promises to bring on attractive value for all.
A PPP and an independent certifying institute
The logical format for cooperation is that a Public Private Partnership (PPP) will be established, in which for example also the transition experts from the Dutch research institute for transitions (Drift) partake. Together parties can work towards an independent C2C certification institute. This cooperation can position C2C as a true and recognized transition model.
This way everyone can get started with C2C. Every organisation can develop its own C2C products and can choose its own independent consultants. This increases competition, lowers costs and enables more C2C products to emerge. Many hands make the load lighter. It increases the size of the market for C2C significantly and will add national as well as international exposure to the C2C image, as well as to the (energy) transition model it represents. This way it enables a world changing sustainability movement.
Creating a world changing transition together
The quality is secured by the independent institute, by means of certifying C2C products and other C2C developments. This institute can be financed with public means, enabling the certifying system to be further developed and widened in scope. On top, this institute can influence laws and regulations, enabling C2C innovations as well as a new transport and distribution system of raw materials in the Netherlands. The Dutch could thus start creating the first solar powered circular economy in the world, inspiring many around the globe.
This way the Netherlands can become a testing area for sustainable and innovative development and play an exemplary role in the world. The international status of McDonough and Braungart as founding fathers of a concept, which they helped develop into a world changing model, will match this role. All will stand to gain with this situation. If we dare, we can create a world changing transition together.
6 What’s in a name?
We fail to see how the Dutch government, chambers of commerce, foundations and others in the Netherlands, can continue to intensively promote and add to the expansion of C2C, when the aforementioned model is not opted for. The promotion by these parties of C2C has been instrumental in securing the success of C2C in the Netherlands and made the name Cradle to Cradle so much bigger then in other countries.
But if promoting this name only adds to the commercial interests of a few, while frustrating the larger societal movement that is urgently needed, it’s time for another name.
We would not welcome a name change, since it means that we have to trade in the win/win situation, as indicated under point 5, for a situation where there are only losers. For now, we hope that all parties will recognize that a Public Private Partnership and an independent certification institute are the only options to create a world changing movement with C2C.
The Dutch government no doubt will recognize the potential which stems from a connection between C2C and the energy transition. McDonough and Braungart in turn doubtlessly will realize that C2C is larger then they are; just as aviation turned out to be larger then the Wright brothers.
To our conviction there’s nothing hindering us to start acting upon these insights now.
By Roger Cox and Bert Lejeune, transition-lawyers, the Netherlands
maandag 23 februari 2009 | 9 reactiespermalink
Ben zelf niet helemaal op de hoogte van de obstakels die ondervonden worden bij (gewenste) samenwerking met McDonough en Braungart. Heb echter wel eens iets gehoord van mensen die 'wel met hen te maken hebben'. Jullie appél lijkt me een heel juiste. Hoop dat jullie dit ook direct kunnen adresseren aan McDonough en Braungart.
Zijn jullie (schrijvers van deze 'call for a change') overigens op de hoogte van het bestaan van Be Beneficial in Nederland? Zij zijn (ook)bezig het gedachtengoed van McDonough en Braungart in Nl te verspreiden. Samenwerking met hen lijkt ook hier een goede manier om krachten te bundelen. Zie ook www.bebeneficial.nl Evelyne Peeters
Be The Change
reactie door Evelyne Peeters | maandag 23 februari 2009 @ 20:28 uur
Roger, a beautiful plea for some logical considerations. I truly believe that C2C is the "umbrella" phrase where we can catch positive initiatives on sustainable development. It is that typical positive open atmosphere that (was present at your conference in Maastricht) that we need to sustain to be succesfull. Let's not be distracted by business agreements and commercial considerations of the brand C2C. Let's be focussed on making the C2C line of thinking a main stream thought and a succes in urban development, spatial planning, sustainable businessparks, process industries, consumer products and everything in between. Let's get it into our blood, under our skins. Let's go through the learning curve together, lets not be afraid to make our first mistakes, and lets not hold grudges because we make them. Let's seize this opportunity to learn from people from different walks of life, lawyers (you) (chemical)engineers (me), architects, housewifes, everybody can bring some perspective to table.
I love to be part of that, so lets make that happen. I'm open to all initiatives and am also developing my own. Because this is not a time to sit back and be judgemental, tis is the time to act.
reactie door Reinout Holland | dinsdag 24 februari 2009 @ 23:18 uur
Just a quick comment on a long but good story.
Pragmatism & Pocket prevail over Passion with vision, unfortunatly.
I am involved in the C2C for construction minerals. The vital Passion & Vision for C2C is not present to transform the construction economy towards sustainability, unless our leaders become leaders and share a vision that goes beyond" NIMTIO" (not in my time in office). When "Bouwend Nederland" (Constructing Netherlands) organizes a meeting for financial support in a posh club in the Hague the same way automobile CEO's fly into Washington in their private jets to ask money, they are not ready to embrace C2C the way with the needed passion it deserves. The old captains of industry cannot change the collision coarse of the super tanker called construction has with our globe. Since we need new economical models I agree with PPP the way I experienced this in Quebec (development corporation that resulted in a big investment in the 70th).
I have a "Identifying and Mobilizing Best Sustainable Construction Practice" proposal ready in which I refer to a "3P4P2" (Public-Private-Partners for Promising Pilots), to start with students.
Both the consensus based EU and the 27 European National governements are too static ("stroperig") and lack the virility the US has and that is crisis oriented by nature (Sputnik in space to get man on moon).
The last time when Europe (UK) had "war time speed" was possible due to the change in the US due to Pearl Harbor. What we need for 2C2 and sustainability is again war time speed to make a quantum leap. The gelatine layer of the European construction industry has had a cement bonding demanding a lot of energy from outside to get messages flowing again.
This while in the largest economical and largest polluting sector the most can be gained from C2C and sustainability in general.
Let me know how I can be constructive for you.
reactie door Boudewijn Piscaer | woensdag 25 februari 2009 @ 11:44 uur
The main limitation of the C2C concept is that there is not clear link with the financial economy. If C2C competes in a traditional economic environment, it will suffer. As long as the financial economy stays linear, the real economy cannot become circular. The current financial crisis offers the best opportunity to create the change required. The C2C concept strives for the design of products that waste can serve as food for next generations of products. In the publications of Mc.Donough and Braungart, it is obvious that the scope of the concept is much wider than 'just' recycling. The paradox is however that the concept itself stands in the way of achieving this broader scope The first limitation is that it relies on the positive effect that can be expected after the life time of a product. 'Why invest more in a building to obtain recyclable materials after 50 years...'. In fact reduction of the use of energy and materials is a much more effective target on the short term. The second limitation is that it is very much restricted to the work of Mc. Donough and Braungart. It has shown to be an effective strategy to have two innovators in two different disciplines to show the viability of the concept. Their professionalism and dedication have led to a great leap forward, both in terms of innovation and communication. It seems however that the concept is quantitatively rapidly expanding, but has not really conceptually grown in the recent years. It apparently suffers from the 'law of the handicap of the head start ('Wet van de remmende voorsprong') The third and most important limitation is that the concept is embedded in the traditional marketing environment. This makes the concept subject to market rules. The well known innovation theory of Everett Rogers relates the acceptance of a product to the mentality of its consumers. The theory distinguishes different stages in the adoption of a new product, service or concept. The subsequent consumers are described as innovators, early and late adopters, early and late majority and ultimately the laggards. Parallel to the phases of the innovation theory of Rogers, one can distinguish a reduction of the innovation aspect and an increase of the communication aspect.
A new product or concept, like C2C is an innovation and will in the introduction period be supported by 'innovators'. In other words, the innovative approach of C2C is initially mainly adopted by professionals with the right attitude and aptitude. In this stage, the 'drive' is entirely innovation oriented, both for the originators and for the adopters. The communication aspect is of minor importance as the focus is on the content. As soon as the innovation appears to be valid, the communicational aspect is introduced; 'be good and show it'. During the life span of a product or service, the acceptance is not only shifting from 'innovators' to 'laggards', but also the character moves from 'innovation' to 'communication'. By the time the late majority accepts the product or concept, the innovation content has faded and communication has entirely taken over its role. Mc.Donough and Braungart are real innovators. The combination of design and science formed a unique nucleus for a new approach and a solid concept. Of course, the value of the concept is in the acceptance in society. Therefore, the communicational aspect was well organised and was focused on the innovative mission. There was in other words a balance between the content and the claim. In the past two years, the C2C concept has gained wide interest. Larger groups were informed and the C2C concept has become a 'brand' for sustainability.
This led to a phase shift in Rogers terms. The 'Tegenlicht' documentary marked the shift from innovators to early adopters. The translation of the book, the various publications and gatherings have consolidated this phase. Now we are on the threshold of shifting to the phase of the early majority. This shift has changed the character of the concept from innovation driven to communication driven. Recently, a staff member of the Dutch Ministry of economic affairs stated that the C2C concept has become 'a strong brand'. He did not state however that it has led to concrete innovations. This may show that by its success, the balance shift form innovation to communication has effectively taken place. But also the certification scheme by Mc.Donough and Braungart expresses a tendency towards communication. The goal is not to promote a 'gold label' of a C2C certification institute. It focuses on the wrong motive. In contrary; sustainability should be self supporting. The innovation has to create profit both in financial and environmental terms. Any certification scheme creates a considerable risk that the certification mark will be used as an alibi, which could even reduce the urge to innovate. In the discussion related to the remarks of Hans Weijers, it is not a matter of choosing C2C or another concept. The C2C concept has reached the 'early majority' in society. Indeed, for that group it wouldn't be effective to abolish it or trade it in for something else, now that it has become familiar. However, C2C has also become a container like 'green' or 'sustainable'. To enhance the development on professional level, a new innovative action is required. In the years that I work in the field of innovation for a sustainable economy, I have closely followed the C2C movement. On this moment we are working on five conceptual innovations that fully match the C2C concept. No doubt, we have been inspired by C2C. But we are also faced with its limitations. In short, the C2C concept tells us what to aim for. Very little is presented how to achieve it in a traditional western economy. Our experience in initiating innovation processes shows that the C2C concept is only one aspect of the realm of the circular economy. The development has to use parallel tracks. The C2C concept will serve the communicative track to keep society informed. An innovative track has to be set up for professionals, active in this field Practical innovation projects and concept development have to start in the direction of a circular economy. This requires a collaboration, combining innovation of both the physical cycle and a financial cycle. Innovation should not only focus on 'remaking the way we make things' but also on 'rethinking the way we can achieve things'. This could have a different name like 'circular economy'. A paradigm is needed in which a sustainable physical world is directly linked with a sustainable financial world. In this circular economy both the physical and the financial loops are closed. And they are linked like , the lemniscate.
The Dutch are in a unique position to develop this. The time is right to act....
reactie door Rogier de la Rive Box | donderdag 5 maart 2009 @ 21:20 uur
Conservatism is holding progress and protecting the current interests. Just as with every new concept that is being promoted. Time will solve it when new concept have proven to be viable. That is a battle which might not be won in one blow, but can take years. Unfortunately. Of course any speed up action for a good concept is useful. Ideas and models which have worked well in the past always extended already existing models. C2C can do the same by pointing out that re-using waste is nothing else than raising efficiency of material use. Farmers have and are doing it for years by re-using dung of animals to grow food more rapidly. Using straight dung has disadvantages because it is smelly so big closed digesters are being used to catch and convert those parts into usable high value fertilizer and high value methane. So why don't we use that example for any type of "waste" to material processing to show that C2C is just an extension to already existing practices.
Of course closing the financial loop will be necessary and that can be done if the efficiency of the processes will rise to the same level of the expected economical efficiency on investments: about 10%. Most chemical, physical processes on which natural processes are based are reaching not more than 2% of (for our purposes) usable material. To match both levels of efficiency there are so many ways to get to it: lower investement cost (by re-cycling equipment (technical), lowering money cost (economical), improving equipment for durability (innovation, technical and economical), produce-where-needed lowering transportation cost (economical), enhance base material to lower volume to transport (economical) etc. etc. But do not: raise taxes on the use of energy to force lowering of energy use. Do not streamline existing processes for minimizing labour force: people and animals are already using a renewable energy source and (most) people do like to work. Optimizing the work flow to keep people happy working all there live. Not by bluntly raising old age pension live or downgrading (and forcing people)
Just a number of ideas to get things rolling again.
reactie door ger | zondag 8 maart 2009 @ 11:25 uur
SiS is engaged in research about the possibility to replace or reduce the use of cement in beton. You know that the cementindustry is using 5% of all co2 emissions worldwide, so our effort is worthwhile. One ton of cement produces also 1 ton of Co2. Nine moths ago we investigated to come to a C2C certification but were puzzled by the commercial context. We stopped the certification process and instead we started an LCA analysis, while waiting for a reform of the C2C certification process. We hope this will now happen soon a PPP system would be an excellent model.
We thank the people that started this discussion, because we thought we stood alone with this. Of course we should have known better, anyway. Thanks.
reactie door Johannes Krens | vrijdag 20 maart 2009 @ 12:20 uur
C2C is een vorm van een fundamenteel cyclisch (aarde) principe, onderdeel van meerdere dimensies van natuurlijke energie. Wat er -voor de branche althans- nieuw aan is, is dat het het vertrouwde genereren (productie) completeert met regenereren (recycling) en het daarop anticiperen (bewustzijn). GEbruik van grondstoffen wordt dus juist bevorderd, ten koste van het achterhaalde VERbruik. REgeneratie -een vorm van fermentatie, ontleding waarbij zuurstof vrijkomt- staat hier tegenover DEgeneratie -een vorm van oxidatie, waarbij zuurstof wordt onttrokken en CO2 vrijkomt. De natuur, in de vorm van micro-bacteriën doen dit al miljoenen jaren. Met name bij het ontwerpen van onze productieprocessen is hiervan meer te leren, dan dat er alleen fysiek uit te onttrekken is. Braungart en McDonough hebben met dit stukje bewustzijn -net als Al Gore- een kritische massa bereikt, hetgeen te prijzen is. Dit collectieve bewustzijn is de drijvende kracht achter een nieuw productieproces, waarin wij allemaal een eigen unieke rol spelen. Met de nodige transparantie en zelfontwikkeling kan de energieverslindende concurrentie worden aangevuld met efficiënte en duurzame samenwerking. Zo kan onze immense (im)materiële overvloed ingezet worden om over en weer meer balans in de hele wereld te creëren. Vanuit wie wij zijn (zelfreflectie) ontstaan vanzelf verbindingen met in- en output naar anderen. Door deze specifieke behoeften en vermogens te communiceren en elkaar te voorzien, zal de hele carrousel op gang komen. Wachten op en wijzen naar C2C, treintjes, overheid of wat dan ook is niet opportuun.
reactie door Alec Boswijk | vrijdag 20 maart 2009 @ 17:11 uur
I think also it's important to realize that C2C is not only a method but first and foremost a philosophy. That means that the vision, the spirit and the breath comes first and give the context in which the eco-design takes place. And we must recognize that, even if a lot of people feel genuinely inspired, the vision of the C2C promises is still strongly linked to the passion and commitment of their creators. It's so easy to take the things for granted and to flatten the whole system. Making C2C more affordable, spreaded, standardized, ... is of course a good idea and I share most your proposals, but we must preserve the spirit that Bill and Michael incarnate and make C2C always moving or we'll just get C2C down to ISO horizontal juiceless solutions. It's a strong risk in a advanced but postmodern, values hierarchy denying culture like Holland.
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