Michael Braungart on the Benefits of Cradle to Cradle

Do we need LED lights and flooring? Our CIRCULAZE jury member Prof. Dr. Michael Braungart, Founder and Scientific Director of Braungart EPEA – Internationale Umweltforschung Hamburg, argues that in order to implement circular systems a real understanding of beauty, quality, and innovation is first required

by Prof. Dr. Michael Braungart | 01 Sep, 2022
Michael Braungart on the Benefits of Cradle to Cradle

1. Why does the Circular Economy have to be on the agenda of every company? Or to put it another way: Why is it worthwhile?

It needs Cradle to Cradle and a real understanding of beauty, quality, and innovation. A product that produces waste or contains toxic ingredients simply has a quality problem. We are the only species that produces waste. When we look at nature for inspiration, we see that everything is nutrient.

This creates new business models: No one needs LED lights, we only need light. No one needs flooring but only floor packaging insurance. For example, desk chairs can be made that contain only three types of plastic instead of forty by buying only 10 years of healthy seating instead of the product itself.

So ultimately, it's about insurance benefits. That's why it's important for buildings to become material banks, where the high-quality materials are deposited so that they are available again for the general public and don't end up as waste in the environment.

The only thing I fear is that we will soon reach a point where we have to spend more on repairing the damage we have done than we can put into solving the problems.

2. What are the biggest challenges?

We can use Cradle to Cradle to turn the last 40 years of end-of-the-world discussion into innovation. We now have all the solutions in place, we just need to implement them. The only thing I fear is that we will soon reach a point where we have to spend more on repairing the damage we have done than we can put into solving the problems.

3. How would you convince people who are still critical towards the topic?

If you want to save the world with classic sustainability, then you should drink champagne instead of sparkling wine because it contains less CO2 and eat oysters to get the microplastic out of the oceans.

4. A thought-leader, book, or podcast you would recommend?

  • Doughnut economy concept
  • The Ellen MacArthur Foundation
  • Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way we Make Things

5. What are the key requirements for Circular Economy to succeed and eventually become standard?

It is first important to ask "what is the right thing to do" before we establish circular systems. You can recycle poison, but is that smart? How about making all buildings suitable for breast milk? We have been studying chemicals in breast milk for over 35 years and there is no sample in the world that would be allowed to be marketed as drinking milk. Yet one-third of the approximately 2,800 pollutants come from buildings. What about using only plastics made from carbon in the atmosphere in the future? What if we set ourselves the goal of returning the level of CO2 in the atmosphere in 2100 to the levels of 1900?

CIRCULAZE, an initiative launched by business network CURAZE, connects pioneers in sustainable business management in Germany and thought leaders to form a network together with the most relevant start- and scale-ups in the field of Circular Economy.

The goal of the community is to establish a powerful ecosystem, to exchange good practices, and inspire each other on the path to an even more sustainable company.

Interested in doing more to promote the Circular Economy and to make it a part of your everyday business? Then consider joining CIRCULAZE.

Made possible with the friendly support of our amazing partners: DB Cargo, DATEV, 4PCapital, hemmersbach, VP Group, ODDO BHF, DEFACTO, Rödl & Partner, Jack Wolfskin, and Beiersdorf.

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