Prof. Dr. Michael Braungart

Cradle to Cradle® - Beyond sustainability

Imagine a world without environmental pollution or waste, where only products with materials that are beneficial to both man and the environment are manufactured.  A world, in which materials are of such high value that they flow in specially designed material cycles. A world, in which humans can actually be pleased about the benefits their consumption has on the environment. A world, in which humans are freed from and no longer have to live under the restraints and limitations placed on them by always having to save, reduce, and cut down on certain things for the sake of the environment. That is exactly the kind of world that the Cradle to Cradle® design concept opens up to all of us.

The terms “Eco-efficiency” and “Eco-efficacy” are often used interchangeably. There is, however, a significant difference between the two. Rather than minimizing the material flows, eco-efficacy proposes the idea of transforming products and their respective material flows so that a workable relationship between ecological systems and economic growth is made possible. The aim here then is not to reduce or delay the cradle to grave material flow but rather to create metabolisms that allow for methods of production that are true to nature and in which materials are used over and over again.

The eco-efficiency approach takes into consideration only quantifiable parameters which outline those problems that should be minimized (e.g. greenhouse gas emissions) whereas the eco-efficacy approach additionally factors in qualifying parameters (e.g. the use of carbon dioxide as a nutrient). Cradle to Cradle®-design seeks to superimpose the principle of quality before quantity onto industrial systems. Materials and material flows are then designed in such a manner so as to be beneficial in terms of the regeneration of their biological and technological sources. Such an approach frees us from our current responsibility and duty to reduce or slow down any negative environmental effects our behavior has. As such, we can be freed from the restraints placed upon us as a result of our prevalent culture of self-blame.

Curriculum Vitae

Professor Dr. Michael Braungart is founder and scientific CEO of “EPEA Internationale Umweltforschung GmbH” in Hamburg. He is also co-founder and scientific head of “McDonough Braungart Design Chemistry” (MBDC) in Charlottesville, Virginia (USA), and founder and scientific head of the “Hamburger Umweltinstitut” (HUI). These institutes share values embracing intelligent, aesthetic and eco-effective Design.

Braungart studied chemistry and process engineering, amongst others in Konstanz and Darmstadt (Germany). In the 1980s he dedicated his work to the environmental organization Greenpeace. From 1982 on he was active in establishing its chemistry department, which he took over in 1985. In the same year he received his Ph.D. from the University of Hannover’s chemistry department. He founded EPEA in 1987.

Since then he has been involved with research and consultancy for eco-effective Products – i.e. products and production processes that are designed for closed loops and do not harm man or nature, but rather contribute to their well-being. He works together with many organizations and companies from different branches; for instance in a partnership with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, which has adopted Cradle to Cradle.

Today he holds four academic chairs: at the Rotterdam School of Management of Erasmus University, Leuphana University Lüneburg, University Twente in Enschede and at TU Delft (visiting). In 2013, Braungart was awarded an honorary professorship from TU München in the context of the federal Initiative of Excellence and also received an honorary doctorate from Hasselt University (Belgium).

Mr. Braungart is co-author of the “Hanover Principles of Design: Design for Sustainability”, which served as the development guidelines for the World's Fair in Hannover in 2000. He also co-authored two books with William McDonough: “Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things” in 2002 and “The Upcycle: Beyond Sustainability – Designing for Abundance” in 2013.

Michael Braungart has received several awards. Among others the “Océ-van-der-Grinten Award” for the development of the Intelligent Product System (IPS) in 1993, the “B.A.U.M. Award” (by a circle of German entrepreneurs who dedicate themselves to environment-friendly processing and management) for his outstanding scientific achievements in 1999, the “Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award” from the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 2003 and the “Sustainable Entrepreneurship Award (SEA) of Excellence” for his exceptional commitment to the promotion of sustainable entrepreneurship in 2013.