Behind the term Cradle to Cradle (C2C) is the idea of the circular economy. This means that ideally, at the end of a product's life cycle, the raw materials used are completely returned to the production process without any loss of quality. C2C stands for maximum innovation and thinks the product from design to disposal in new economic, social and ecological categories. It was developed in the 1990s by the German chemist Dr. Michael Braungart and the American architect William McDonough. They distinguished between technical and biological cycles: either the raw materials are returned to biological cycles as "biological nutrients", i.e. they rot and become humus. Or they become "technical nutrients" and can be kept continuously in technical cycles.
In order to have a reliable quality assessment available for the products that are supposed to meet these criteria, the Cradle to Cradle Certified product program was developed. The Cradle to Cradle Certified certificate is awarded by the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute in San Francisco, USA, which was founded in 2010. The European subsidiary is located in Amsterdam.
Accordingly, the Cradle to Cradle Certified program takes a holistic approach to evaluating products and manufacturing processes. Materials and manufacturing processes are evaluated in five categories: Material health (ingredients), material reuse, renewable energy (energy consumption as a whole), water management and social responsibility.
In addition, the C2C Product Standard is available in five certification levels: Basic, Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum. In order to be awarded at a certain level, a product must meet the minimum criteria for this level in all five categories. The standard is currently being revised. For example, the new version 4.0 stipulates that companies must use a higher level of renewable energy, and disposable plastic and fur have been excluded.
In October 2020 there will be about 600 certificates. In August 2018, C&A was the first retailer in the world to issue jeans with Cradle to Cradle Certified at Gold Level.