By Monika Griefahn
At this year’s meeting of environmental award winners from all over the world in the southern German city of Freiburg, participants from Brazil, China, India and other countries showed a lot of interest in the Cradle to Cradle design concept. After the introductory talk on the subject a lively and fruitful discussion took place.
The meeting of international environmental award winners is organised every year by the European Environment Foundation. Participants get a chance to meet each other and, ideally, to initiate co-operations across national borders. Around 100 activists take part every year. Life isn’t always easy for them in their home countries – the annual meeting gives like-minded people an opportunity to gather strength for the challenges associated with their daily activities. The fact that life as an environmentalist can be very dangerous has been gravely underlined by the case of Berta Cáceres, who was murdered in her own home in Honduras in 2016 because she fought against illegal construction projects. With this firmly in mind the award winners formulated a final declaration at the conference urging an end of the suppression of environmental activists (see pdf file at the end of this article).
The participants of my workshop about Cradle to Cradle outbid each other with questions and contributions to the discussion. Two topics that arose during the debate were of particular interest to me: One was the question of whether C2C production necessarily had to be more costly than conventional means of manufacturing. My answer was no – oftentimes the transformation of a product into one that conforms to C2C specifications comes with a reduction of components. While the decoding of the old formula and the development of a new one may be more costly the new product itself can however be less expensive than the old one.
Participants also argued that C2C products should come with a dedicated label in order to advertise their inherent value. Of course Cradle to Cradle already does offer a possibility to undergo a process of certification. In gradual steps from basic to platinum it shows how much a manufacturer has already analysed his product: how well does he know its components, has he replaced problematic components, has he developed and deployed a functioning returns system? In the end however, it’s all about transparency, which ideally should be attainable without a label. Certification processes make products more expensive after all. However, as labels seem to increase credibility, certainly in an international context, each and every enterprise must consider for itself whether certification makes sense. Participants at the workshop tended to feel that a label was important to provide a degree of orientation.
I am glad to have been able to make Cradle to Cradle better known internationally. Now I hope the attendees will spread the idea around in their respective home countries by telling colleagues at NGOs, companies and in their communities. For one thing is clear: Sufficient stimulation to do so certainly wasn’t lacking at the meeting.