Consulting Approach

Collecting Data on Current Sustainability Performance

During the Inventory phase, MBDC and client project team members collaboratively gather quantitative and qualitative data on current sustainability standing and previous initiatives. MBDC meets with the client’s project team (in-person and via teleconferences), interviews key personnel, evaluates information gathering and reporting processes, and reviews current organizational and sustainability objectives. Examples of specific activities and areas for data collection can include the following:

Products & Materials

  • What sustainability criteria are used in making purchasing decisions?
  • Review existing product and supplier guidelines (e.g., use of Restricted Substances Lists; supplier auditing).
  • Identify product or service types for which Cradle to Cradle strategies may offer value.

  • What is the current extent of recycling and waste reduction within internal offices, manufacturing facilities (finished products and components), and distribution centers? What are the organization’s operational impacts as measured by greenhouse gas emissions, water quality and water use efficiency, ecosystem health and biodiversity, social responsibility, and other indicators?
  • What metrics are used to measure operations success? Which ones are or can be connected with sustainability?
  • How is the organization communicating its activities related to sustainability? How does it compare with messaging by others in its sector?
  • Map current decision-making processes and reporting relationships to leverage positive change, engage employee input and creativity, and develop implementation strategies.
  • How is employee satisfaction measured? How can an employee’s input be collected and shared internally? What incentives, disincentives or training opportunities related to sustainability are available? How can employee involvement be used to achieve business and sustainability objectives commensurately?
  • Identify “sustainability champions” to lead data collection and oversee pilot projects within their specific operational areas during the Assessment and Optimization phases.
Evaluating Current Sustainability Performance and Aligning Resources for Continuous Improvement
MBDC analyzes the information collected during the Inventory phase and develops initial findings. Using these results, MBDC assists the client to tailor its sustainability goals and strategies for the future, and to draft an implementation plan with milestones and timelines. The organization also should begin to demonstrate tangible actions through pilot projects in one or more areas, such as the following:
  • Ingredient hazard evaluation and material selection
  • Product design for recyclability/compostability (“DfX”)
  • Supply chain collaboration
  • Product stewardship
  • “Closing the loop” on materials
  • Expand the concept of ‘good design’ of products and services to move beyond typical measures of quality -- cost, performance and aesthetics -- to include and apply new objectives, such as ecological intelligence and social responsibility.
  • Develop strategies for maximizing the expertise and participation of material vendors. Establish near-term and longer-term design criteria for product components.
  • Manufacturing processes
  • Energy and climate change
  • Water stewardship
  • Social responsibility
  • Employee relations
  • Analyze operations for opportunities to apply the Cradle to Cradle framework through alternative technologies, new operating guidelines, material flows, and other means.
  • Determine areas in which the client is most vulnerable regarding social indicators. Recommend areas that should be prioritized to manage risk more effectively.
  • Identify opportunities to optimize the client’s relationships with employees, as an engaged workforce can be its greatest asset.
  • Vision setting
  • Strategy development and implementation
  • Stakeholder engagement
  • Brand reputation
  • Success metrics
  • Create or enhance a sustainability vision statement across the entire organization and a signed commitment by senior management if not the CEO of the company.
  • Develop and begin to implement a plan for the organization to share its sustainability vision and strategies with the public and build its brand image.
Through the process of vetting draft vision statements with senior management, collaborating with stakeholders, and starting pilot projects and monitoring their initial results, the client and MBDC will be able to better shape the sustainability program moving forward. Continuous feedback and learning from the work being implemented will help calibrate implementation to achieve the desired goals, tangibly define the organization’s sustainability branding, and promote sector leadership.
Achieving Cradle to Cradle Objectives

Moving beyond the initial integration of Cradle to Cradle objectives and activities, the Optimization phase represents true achievement of the vision. Actions have transitioned from understanding the client’s current sustainability status, developing strategies to capitalize on opportunities and eliminating obstacles, towards securing tangible successes in material health, material reutilization, renewable energy, water stewardship and social responsibility. Examples of Optimization successes include the following, across the functional areas of Products & Materials, Operations, and Organization:


  • Use Cradle to Cradle material assessment data to select ingredients that are safe for human and environmental health and fully recyclable/biodegradable.
  • Activate various strategies for fully recycling or composting a product, through any necessary connections with external partners (e.g., customers, retailers, recyclers, public agencies, nonprofit organizations).
  • Power manufacturing processes using 100 percent renewable energy (e.g., solar, wind, low-impact hydroelectric, biomass) produced on-site, purchased directly from a utility, or offset with Green-e certified Renewable Energy Certificates (REC).
  • Use as little water as possible in the delivery of products and/or services; ideally, keep water within closed loops.
  • Ensure that any water released to the environment be at least the same or better quality as its source, to foster ecosystem and watershed health.
  • Promote socially responsible relationships with employees, local residents, customers, vendors, the larger business community, the government and other stakeholders.

Cradle to Cradle optimization may not be achieved easily or quickly and may require continuous improvement over multiple iterations. For example, performance and cost considerations may prevent preferred solutions from coming into use in the short term, but at least organizations are prepared with an eco-effective solution when market conditions are aligned for change.


The Cradle to Cradle goal may take a long time to completely realize for a particular product, service or sector, but managers, designers, material fabricators and others should accept the challenge, establish a trajectory toward the ideal, and begin to implement strategies to help achieve it. Leveraging this expanded notion of ‘good’ design will help create solutions that benefit not only one organization, but also its stakeholders, the environment and society at-large in the long term.

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