Cradle to Cradle in motion

Towards an action program Cradle to Cradle (C2C) was the theme of the conference in the provincial house in Leuven (B) on 26 October 2011. About 60 people from business, government, research institutions, civil society and education met. It provided interesting conversations about topics such as the role of government), education programs, area development, the power of networks and the roles of the various ‘parties’. Some topics were discussed and the key was:

  • Governance: let it go and be supporter instead of an attendant;
  • Education: focus on basic knowledge (learning from nature?)

  • Areal development: the search for new approaches, connect people and areas;
  • Networks: active learning and activating;

  • Knowledge institutions: Find the fundamental values that strengthen the quality of work on C2C;

    Actually, it’s mostly a matter of learning from each other, organise it as a social learning process: open, communicative, in depth, reflective and a mutual search for meaning and renewal.

    Looking and listening to the debates, I heard some elements that I like to clarify. In the form of four questions in the background (and sometimes very directly in the foreground) these insights emerged:

    1. C2C is a truth and the sole solution?

    The message of Michael Braungart is still very literally taken in Flanders. This makes the discussions sometimes unnecessarily harsh. Cradle to Cradle is a powerful concept, for people and companies because it provides a perspective for direct action. A product can be redesigned in a C2C approach, quite directly: clean, re-useable resources and further high-quality use. The C2C lab Venlo has a seven-step approach, which works instantly for users. This approach, says Roy Vercoulen ( of the C2C-lab, is available to interested parties. Work with these seven steps is quite different from C2C certification, but for a company is the first possibility to move forward.
    For me, the strength of Cradle to Cradle is above all:
    Learning to see: a linear to a circular approach;
    change: from guilt management to value orientation (what value do you/your product add to the system?)
    Reflection: work on efficiency (bit better) becomes working on effectiveness (doing good) and
    thinking: new solutions, different design or innovation at the system level.

    2 Trust?
    Classic environmental policy is based on distrust and thus has much controlling instruments. What does ‘trust’ in the C2C approach mean for me:
    trust in the power of natural processes
    trust in the creative power of people and
    trust in the power or impact of C2C.
    This allows us to let the strategy of defending or attacking behind us. Growth is the natural process, inspiration reinforces thinking about new forms of creation (and redesign) and the effect will be as a “slow tsunami” development.

    3 Tools?
    Many policies are built on piles of legislation or other directive policies. That’s what some of the discussion was about: finding databases, regulatory and financing. In my opinion C2C enables us to focus on socially useful tools:
    a new way of thinking requires a new approach (which shows the traditional instruments they are;
    See, hear and recognize gives understanding, and it enhances often a kind of “enlightened self-interest” feeling for companies and institutions;
    Funding is limited and focused on “accelerating transition interventions’ (from masterclass to pubications, field visits to design laboratory, etc);
    work on innovation, such as procurement of products and housing/infrastructure (now: Design, Build, Finance and Maintain (DBFM) but later also Service: DBFMS?) and
    The government as launching customer gives leaders in business an incentive for their efforts. This is also known as: innovative contracting. The importance is that this gives a market incentive to innovative and active organisations.

    4 roles & expectations?
    During the discussions in Leuven there were also talks about ‘the’ other. It is a line of thinking that does not really fit in the Belgian mores, so it was not very strong present. A few reflections fit in well here:
    government is not in the lead, entrepreneurs and enterprising citizens have (the Energetic Society);
    use knowledge that is highly available, but it probably requires some “reframing”;
    Create the conditions that enhance development of C2C (eg by working with area characteristics and principles);
    education has primarily a task when it comes to basic ecological knowledge (life’s principles, learning from nature) and only secondary as a display of C2C solutions
    businesses feel increasingly responsible on sustainability and innovation towards C2C: the circular economy is growing steadily.

    tell the story
    appreciate the wonder and
    The story focuses on the listener.

    Reading tip:
    Sense and Sustainability
    Ken Webster and Craig Johnson, 2008
    ISBN 978-0-9559831-0-8

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