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13 Feb

What Is the Cradle to Cradle Certification?

Based on William McDonough and Michael Braungart’s Cradle to Cradle approach, the Cradle to Cradle certification is a rigorous, third-party program that evaluates and recognises products for their environmental and social impacts. Keep reading to learn more about the Cradle to Cradle certification and why it’s important.

What is the Cradle to Cradle certification?

Cradle to Cradle is a global system of scoring brands for their commitment to the circular economy–the reduction of waste and hazardous chemicals, more efficient uses of resources and the reuse of materials, energy efficiency, and social responsibility.

The Cradle to Cradle certification helps ensure products are safe, circular, and responsibly made. It takes a comprehensive and holistic approach to sustainability, considering not only environmental factors but also social and economic elements.

The Cradle to Cradle approach

The Cradle to Cradle approach is a way of designing products that is good for both people and the environment. It was first introduced in William McDonough and Michael Braungart’s 2002 book, “Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things”. It encourages using safer materials, conserving energy and water, and creating closed-loop systems where waste is eliminated.

A brief history of C2C

In 1992, McDonough and Braungart published a first book, “The Hannover Principles: Design for Sustainability”, followed by ”Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things” in which they mapped out the principles behind the Cradle to Cradle approach. In 2010, they set up the certification system and methodology and revealed it to the public through the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute.

They also launched the Fashion Positive programme, working with a community of pioneering brands such as Stella McCartney to clean up fashion, reduce waste, and make clothes fairly and efficiently.

How are brands Cradle to Cradle Certified®?

To be certified, companies must go through the rigorous certification program led by the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute.

To achieve the certification, companies must meet specific criteria and standards:

  • Ensure materials are safe for humans and the environment
  • Enable a circular economy through regenerative products and process design
  • Protect clean air, promote renewable energy, and reduce harmful emissions
  • Safeguard clean water and healthy soils
  • Respect human rights and contribute to a fair and equitable society

The Cradle to Cradle certification has different levels of recognition: Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Platinum. Each level represents a different level of commitment to environmental sustainability:

  • Bronze level certification means that a company has assessed the environmental risks for the final manufacturing stage and the product and has an environmental policy in place. They developed a plan to implement said environmental policy at all their manufacturing facilities and will be evaluated on their progress at recertification. Executives of the company must also demonstrate their commitment to achieving high levels of environmental performance.
  • Silver level certification means that the company has management systems in place to support the implementation and oversight of their environmental policy at their manufacturing facilities.
  • Gold level certification means that the company has responsible sourcing management systems in place to support the implementation and oversight of the environmental policy within the product’s supply chain.
  • Platinum level certification is the highest level of recognition. The company has incorporated environmental objectives into their employee performance evaluations and provides incentives for top management and employees to actively participate in achieving the company’s environmental goals.

Companies with certified products show their commitment to sustainability, including the use of safer and more sustainable materials and closed-loop recycling and the use of more responsible labour practices. Here are a few “Good” and “Great” rated brands with Cradle to Cradle certified products:

Things to consider when shopping

To make the most informed choices, it is important to understand the entire lifecycle of a product, including how it was made, where it came from, and what will happen to it at the end of its life.

This is why the Cradle to Cradle certification is such a useful tool when researching better brands to support and trying to understand their impacts. To identify Cradle to Cradle certified products, look for the Cradle to Cradle Certified label or check the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute’s website for a list of certified materials and products.

However, while the Cradle to Cradle certification covers many aspects of sustainability, it does not cover everything. That’s why it’s important to look for other certifications and labels, such as fairtrade, in addition to Cradle to Cradle.

Using Good On You to make better choices

Good On You is the most trusted source of sustainability ratings for fashion. At the heart of what we do is the belief that you have a right to know how brands impact the issues you care about—and it should be as easy as checking a product’s price tag.

Our ratings methodology is the fashion industry’s most robust and comprehensive. We bring together the world’s leading and most reliable sources of information on sustainability, analysing more than 500 data points across 100 key issues. We look at the most robust third-party indices and certifications (including Cradle to Cradle), as well as brands’ own public reporting.

Using our proprietary tech, our analysts then evaluate each brand’s impact on people, the planet, and animals, before giving a clear and accessible five-point score ranging from “We Avoid” to “Great”.

Fashion has a huge impact on people, the planet, and animals. But the good news is that you have power: by choosing “Good” or “Great” rated brands and Cradle to Cradle Certified products, you can help drive industry-wide change.

Editor's note

Feature image via Unsplash. Good On You publishes the world’s most comprehensive ratings of fashion brands’ impact on people, the planet, and animals. Use our directory to search thousands of rated brands.

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