Rethinking Production Processes.

The Idea

Cradle to Cradle Certified® Design defines and develops cyclable products.

In regard to differentiation to conventional recycling the quality level of the raw materials remains throughout multiple product lifecycles and only purely “assessed safe chemicals” are used.

The products are developed according the model to maintain the quality of raw materials over multiple life cycles taking the production processes, the use and the reutilization into account.
This means: No waste, all ingredients are considered as nutrients. The right materials are integrated in defined cycles (metabolism) at the right time and place.

Nature as a model

Nature as a model reflects ongoing developments in a Cradle to Cradle Certified® product: Flourishing trees in spring are only apparently redundant. From a few blossoms new trees are growing. All blossoms not used for growth, fall to the ground and become nutrients.

The 3 Cradle to Cradle Certified® principles:

1. Cycle: Waste = Food
2. Energy: use of renewable resources
3. Diversity

Cradle to Cradle Certified® Products reach a new quality dimension and distinguish themselves through high economic value as well as modest, ideally with no environmental damage. They achieve high consumer friendliness and are credentials of a paradigm change towards consumer behaviour and in the industrial production. Cradle to Cradle Certified® Design defines not only form, functionality and ingredients of a product. The goal is to strive for a new dimension in quality and safety in endless cycles.

The 2 Systems: biological and technical cycles



Consumer Goods (natural fibers, cosmetics, detergents, etc.) are designed so that they can be used in biological cycles over and over again. They decompose to organic nutrients and promote biological nutrients and systems such as plant growth. The renewable raw materials are in turn the basis for new products.


Service Products (TV sets, cars, synthetic fibers, etc.), the so-called technical nutrients, are separated to enable the production of new commodities after fulfilling their initial function. The users / consumers purchase only the relevant services, e.g. Television. The materials remain the property of the manufacturer, which retains them through collection and reenters them into the technical cycle.


About Cradle to Cradle Certified®certification

Cradle to Cradle Certified® redefines products made for tomorrow

  • How we design and make products today shapes the world we will inhabit tomorrow.
  • Leading brands, retailers, designers and manufacturers rely on Cradle to Cradle Certified® to ensure the impact of their products on people and planet is a positive one.
  • Cradle to Cradle Certified® is the most ambitious and actionable standard yet for designing and making products today that enable a healthy, equitable, and sustainable tomorrow.
  • The Cradle to Cradle Certified® Product Standard is regarded as the most trusted and advanced science-based standard for designing and manufacturing safe, circular and responsibly made products that maximize health and wellbeing for people and the environment

Cradle to Cradle Certified® is a comprehensive one-standard solution for addressing the critical sustainability objectives that define products made for tomorrow.

  • Cradle to Cradle Certified® helps organisations align business strategy, operations and partnerships beyond common objectives throughout the entire value chain.
  • Cradle to Cradle Certified® Version 4.0 standard is a comprehensive framework that enables companies to:
    1. Material Health: ensuring materials are safe for humans and the environment
    2. Product Circularity: enabling a circular economy through regenerative products and process design
    3. Clean Air & Climate Protection: protecting clean air, promoting renewable energy, and reducing harmful emissions
    4. Water & Soil Stewardship: safeguarding clean water and healthy soils
    5. Social Fairness: respecting human rights and contributing to a fair and equitable society

Cradle to Cradle certification assesses and verifies the safety, circularity and responsibility of materials and products according to the Cradle to Cradle Certified® Product Standard’s five categories of sustainability performance: Material Health, Product Circularity, Clean Air & Climate Protection, Water & Soil Stewardship, and Social Fairness.

Materials and products that meet the Cradle to Cradle Certified® Product Standard requirements may achieve Cradle to Cradle certification.

To earn certification for a product, companies must work with a qualified independent assessor to determine a product’s achievement levels across the five sustainability performance categories.

  • The product is assigned an achievement level for each category (Bronze, Silver, Gold, Platinum).
  • The lowest achievement level among the five categories determines the product’s overall certification level awarded by the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute.
  • By awarding certification on the basis of ascending achievement levels and requiring certification renewal every two years, the Institute encourages and rewards continuous improvement towards positive impacts over time.

Certified products are listed in the publicly available Cradle to Cradle Certified® Product Registry via the website of the Product Innovation Institute. 

About the Institute

  • The Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute is dedicated to powering the circular economy through products and systems that have a positive impact on people and planet.
  • Through the Cradle to Cradle Certified® Products Program, the Institute sets the global standard for products that are safe, circular and responsibly made.
  • The Institute powers the global shift to a circular economy through partnerships and collaborative initiatives that equip businesses, governments and other stakeholders with the technical frameworks and knowledge they need to transform the way products are designed and made.
  • The Institute is headquartered in San Francisco , California and Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Visit org for more information

Topics Discussions

Cradle to Cradle Certified® requires a “Paradigm Change” in relation to today’s predominant “Cradle to Grave” approach. Away from linear thinking towards a thinking in cycles. On numerous committees lively discussions are taking place around the world. Here are some complementary topics about Cradle to Cradle Certified®.

Cradle to Cradle Certified® Sustainability
Perspective Cradle to Cradle mainly Cradle to Grave
Orientation Environmental quality goals to reach Problems to reduce, avoid, minimize,
Method Circularity, Cradle to Cradle, Back- and forecasting loop mainly linearity, mainly Cradle to Grave, forecasting
Indicators Qualitative prior to quantitative Quantitative
Environmental Impact Maximization of the positive effectss for humans, environment and maintaining the quality of raw materials Things are countable. Goal in reducing negative impacts
Emphasis Profit tabelle_sustainability-1 tabelle_sustainability-1
People tabelle_cradletocradle-2 tabelle_sustainability-2
Planet tabelle_cradletocradle-3 tabelle_sustainability-3
Pleasure tabelle_cradletocradle-4
Cradle to Cradle Certified® LCA – Life Cycle Assessment
What is it? Innovation framework, Business concept (Circular Economy), but maintaining the quality of raw materials Method for measuring the environmental impact of products over the entire lifecycle
Philosophy It is possible to design products with a positive impact on people, the environment and economic profit (the three P’s) „All“ products pollute, they all require extraction of raw materials and there is always some form of waste left over
Approach Eco-effectiveness: developing a product with positive qualities. The process is part of the ultimate goal. Eco-efficiency: doing more with less. Improving the ratio between economic value and environmental impact. The aim is to measure the result, not the process
Design support Use the 3 guiding principles to establish a clear direction: waste = food, renewable energy, Respect diversity Use hot spots to set priorities for improvements.
Environmental impact Maximization of positive effects on people, their environment and the future availability of high quality raw materials. LCA is used as a measuring instrument in eco-design, whereby hot spots (life cycle elements with the biggest – negative – environmental impact) are identified so that designers can set priorities for improvements.
Ecological footprint Develop a positive beneficial footprint. Measure the footprint and let designers decide how to handle with it.
The terms “eco-efficiency” and “eco-effectiveness” are often lumped together. However, a world of difference separates them: Primarily eco-efficiency quantifies, defines problems to be reduced (e.g. greenhouse gas emissions) and eco-effectiveness qualifies in addition (e.g. use of carbon dioxide as nutrient).
UpcyclingMaintaining the quality of materials and to integrate them into product design over multiple live cycles, remains to be an enormous challenge.

The converntional recycling mostly ends in down cycling, whereas inevitable residues remain and decreased quality occurs. Cradle to Cradle Certified® however searches for strategies, how materials can remain in closed loops without loosing the quality of the materials.

Downcycling – Downcycling quality on the timeline
Cradle to Cradle Certified® – Cycling effective resources saving and resources conservation

The circular economy approach analyses the economics of recycling within a value added chain with the result to generate the recovered material as recycling revenues of materials in a mass material stream.
Cradle to Cradle Certified® defines a quality preserving as well as an economical sound cycling revenue in the added value chain. The material reutilisation of cycleable Cradle to Cradle Certified® products enables to generate ideally revenues close to the acquisition price of materials. In case additional processing or cleaning costs occur, the material expenses are in any case lower than the market price.

Differentiation: Quality equal Quantity

Cradle to Cradle Certified® Design transmits the principle “Quality equal Quantity” to industrial systems. Materials together with material flows are designed to be beneficial and useful for the regeneration and conservation of biological and technical resources. This approach liberates from the present obligation to diminish, reduce or slow down the need to negative environmental impacts.

The decision for an outstanding importance of the quality of materials and their efficient implementation in production processes offers valuable economic opportunities.