Why is Cradle to Cradle Product Certification Revolutionizing Consumer Products?
A growing demand for quality products that are safer for users and the environment is increasing the need for Cradle to Cradle Certified™ products.
This certification has become a trusted resource for decision makers during the selection of better products or materials for the built environment, beauty and personal care, apparel, furniture, home and office supply, among other product categories.
The usefulness of Cradle to Cradle principles in optimizing products and manufacturing has been recognized in multiple programs that are driving sustainability such as the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED). The LEED program rewards the use of Cradle to Cradle Certified products because of the chemical composition risk assessment and stringent work to continually improve products and help manufacturers and designers understand and reduce the impacts of material choices on the end user and the environment. Since manufacturers can obtain a certification for a product range, multiple products that use the same or similar material composition and have the same end use, can be certified together, which increases the offering of certified products in the market by simplifying the process and reducing cost.
How to join the Cradle to Cradle Product Certification revolution
Find a General Assessor to assist your certification process that can assist you through the certification process, wherever you manufacture in the world.
Once it is clear the product is in the scope of the standard and the organization is committed to key improvement activities, the first step is determining the target level of certification your product can apply for as it will frame which specific requirements will need to be fulfill during the general assessment. The levels of certification, basic, bronze, silver, gold, and platinum have a set of requirements that range from basic product information, to collection and assessment of detailed material composition and product manufacturing data. These requirements cover five categories: material health, renewable energy, water stewardship, material reutilization and social fairness. Establishing the product bill of materials is important to know the generic materials of the product, determine which materials will be assessed, and guide the identification of the chemicals present in those materials for the material health assessment. Another important factor is identifying the final destination of the product. Products can end up as material for manufacturing cycles of the same or other products or become biologically degraded. The fate or final destination affects the percentage of materials to be assessed.
Once a target level of certification is identified, the assessor proceeds with the collection of materials data at the element or CAS number level for the material health assessment. This is the procedure to assess the risk of the chemicals in a product against human and environmental end points that are associated with negative health impacts and environmental damage. A rating is generated and the material health category is scored from basic to platinum.
Next the assessment of material reutilization starts with the definition of not only the amount of material reutilized within the product but also how the product can be reutilized at the end of life. This category challenges manufacturers and designers to think on the full life cycle of the product as there needs to be a well-defined end of life strategy. The strategy shall determine if a product is material for a new product or goes to landfill for biodegradability. If the product goes to landfill for biodegradability, tests must demonstrate the claim. A material reutilization score is calculated based on the end of life strategy and execution of both the materials that go into the product and how they can be reutilized at the end of life.
The third assessment category is renewable energy and carbon management. Fundamentally, it is encouraging manufacturers to use renewable energy and manage the carbon emissions of the manufacturing of the product. The score level for this category depends on the percentage of renewable energy used and the percentage of GHG emissions offset. To address this category applicants will have to report annual electricity use and green house gas emissions associated with the manufacturing of the applicant product. In addition, manufacturers will document purchased approved renewable energy credits or if they are using renewable energy generated on site and have conducted a GHG inventory to determine the amount of GHGs that need to be offset.
Water stewardship addresses potential water availability and quality issues from the manufacturing of the product. In the assessment, there is a facility level assessment of the use and discharge to water plus a characterization of local and business-specific water issues. This category seeks to identify any chemical effluents that can contaminate water and address the issue with an optimization plan and actions. If water is not used in the final production of the product, water use in the supply chain can be examined.
Social Fairness uses both self-assessment tools and web-based tools to identify compliance or non-compliance of fundamental labor and human rights within the manufacturing and supply chain of the applicant product. In this category aspiring for a higher score means more data needs to be collected within the supply chain, but it provides a greater opportunity to help suppliers’ improve in areas to positively impact employees. In this category, manufacturers will first conduct a streamlined self-audit to assess protection of fundamental human rights. Second, develop a management procedure aiming to address any identified issues of the self-audit and third conduct full social responsibility self-audit (based on UN Global Compact Tool or B Corp). Additional requirements are needed beyond Gold level.
Towards the end of the assessment, the assessor will visit the final manufacturing facility or the facility which has the most significant production processes to verify the production, materials and information submitted during the assessment. Once the assessment is completed by the General Assessor, the final assessment scored will be equal to the lowest score among all the assessed categories. The General Assessor will prepare and submit the assessment package to the Cradle to Cradle Products Institute with the recommended level. The Institute will review the package and make a decision on the final certification level. If the certification is granted above bronze, the product can display the Cradle to Cradle certification logo and respective level attained in the product. The certified product will also be listed on the Cradle to Cradle Products Institute online product registry. The cost and time of the assessment depends on the level of certification desired, the number of materials for the material health assessment and the amount of requirements to be fulfilled. The general assessor will work with manufactures to find ways to minimize the cost and time of the assessment. After certifying the product, if needed, a plan to optimize the product will be developed to help the certification holder retain certification or obtain a higher level in the recertification.
The Cradle to Cradle Certification has a rigorous assessment process but it can help you have a product that is better for humans and the environment, gain leadership recognition, meet customers’ and market demands. There are 209 participating companies in the program with more than 5000 product variations in 10 product categories. As of September 2016, the program reached 440 certifications including 105 new Cradle to Cradle certifications and 29 new certification holders.
Ana Maria Leal
Consumer and Retail Solutions
SGS North America
Cradle to Cradle Certified™ is a certification mark licensed exclusively for the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute.