Green Products Innovation Institute Launched: Cradle to Cradle Certification Arrives

The first non-profit resource for companies seeking to make their products safer and more sustainable was officially launched today at Google headquarters in Mountain View, California.

The Green Products Innovation Institute (GPII) will provide certification of consumer products using theĀ Cradle-to-Cradle (C2C) protocol of product life-cycle analysis created by William McDonough and Michael Braungart of McDonough Braungart Design Chemistry (MBDC).

McDonough and Braungart gifted the GPII a license to issue Cradle-to-Cradle certification, the first time the protocol has been granted to an institute to issue on its own.

“What [MBDC] hope is for their certification company to be one of many that uses the protocol for the greater good,” said Megan Lloyd-Jones, a GPII spokesperson.

The Cradle-to-Cradle protocol has been applied by more than 100 companies, including Herman Miller, Ford Motor Co. and Aveda, to more than 300 products since its inception in 1995.

Besides issuing product certification, the GPII will train assessors, called “Licensed Assessment Partners (LAPs),” to assist companies in complying with the certification requirements and DTSC regulatory requirements.

The GPII also plans an open, public database of product chemical data, including a list of “positive” alternative chemicals companies could use to make their products safer and more sustainable.

The creation of the GPII was spurred by the launching of the California Green Chemistry Initiative in 2008, a first-in-the-nation regulatory plan to provide stricter oversight of toxic chemicals in consumer products.

The California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC), which will be responsible for enforcement of the Green Chemistry program, applauded the formation of the GPII. Acting Director Maziar Movassaghi, who attended the launch, said the California Green Chemistry Initiative is both “ground-breaking but also potentially daunting. That’s why it’s important for California to have partnerships” with organizations like GPII.

C2C certification includes five metrics, including a “social fairness” measurement of things like labor practices and fair trade issues surrounding a product. Traditionally the DTSC and other government regulatory bodies have not taken into account such variables, instead measuring products according to strict health and safety metrics.

“I do think California is flirting with a pretty big stick here,” said GPII Executive Director Beth Rattner. “Our hope is, why stop with just the material health or chemical assessment portions?”

Just how broadly the DTSC will define what is or is not a green chemical will have to wait until the final regulations are written. A draft text is expected in the next month or so, according to Movassaghi.

The GPII was founded with a grant from the DOEN Foundation, and includes Brad Pitt, Robert Kennedy, Jr. and others in its Founders’ Circle. As the institute gets under way, it will be funded by certification and training fees.

BC (Ben) Upham is a freelance writer based in Los Angeles. He has written for the New York Times, and was a writer and editor for News Communications, Inc., a local paper consortium serving Manhattan. When he's not blogging on green issues -- and especially renewable energy -- he's hiking in the Angeles Mountains or hanging out at El Matador.