Where Products Go To Die

In a country where 90% of our consumer products become waste in about 6 months, sustainability is becoming a more pressing issue for companies operations.  A great example of a company that implements sustainable operations is Method a company that makes house-hold cleaning supplies, most popularly carried by Target. Method attempts to implement sustainability in their products, their process and their company itself. Their most important achievement in operations sustainability is being Cradle to Cradle certified.

Cradle to Cradle is the concept that a company can re-design products and change their manufacturing process in order to maximize positive impacts environmentally, economically and socially, where a company is less dependent on raw materials and energy and the supply chain is naturally more eco-efficient.  Most manufacturing processes are linear and considered Cradle to Grave, which is when a company uses raw materials to create a product, the consumer purchases the products and then eventually puts it in the trash where it is taken to a landfill or incineration. Cradle to Cradle attempts to create a cycle where a company pools materials to be re-used and products are returned from consumers and recycled back into products.

Method displays on their website their Cradle to Cradle certification and explains how they are certified in product design, product manufacturing and social responsibility. Method’s product design is evaluated by their ingredients which are comprehensively assessed for safety and environmental health and their packaging design and materials are evaluated for safety, effects on the environment and recyclability.  Method’s manufacturing processes are evaluated regarding their use of water and energy and their material recovery. Method’s social responsibility is evaluated through governance, ethics and transparency.

These are many ways companies can be more sustainable and the Cradle to Cradle certification is a great way to remain consistently sustainable. It also helps prove to consumers that your company is actually sustainable, rather than using the “going green” trend as a marketing ploy, which many companies have done.

Although Cradle to Cradle may be ideal for sustainable operations, it can also be very expensive, from redesigning products to tracking manufacturing in more granular ways. It almost attempts to challenge and change business models and the way products are produced. The only way to fight these challenges and expenses is to incorporate these practices from the beginning into the first business model. Which is why we should always challenge flaws in current business models and ask ourselves how we can create evolutionary business models.

9 thoughts on “Where Products Go To Die

  1. I agree sustainability is a crucial issue in todays society and in manufacturing. As you metioned, many companies did not incorporate this way of thinking when they were initially formed and now transition is difficult and costly. I feel whats important here is the open need and want for change in this direction of more sustainable products in manufacturing.

  2. I think an important concept to take away from this is how the company incorporated cradle to cradle concepts into their culture and over all business strategy. The way they operate entirely from supply chain decisions to management decisions is with an eco friendly and sustainable mind. Although this can be more expensive, I think they have done such a good job of making it their marketing position that they are benefiting from spending extra money on sustainability, because they are attracting more consumers who like to keep the environment in mind when making purchases. Their marketing position, although may be leading the market in cost, is simultaneously leading the market in sustainability with a renewable product design.

  3. Your post and insight regarding the increasing problem of sustainability and how we should change our business models at the beginning stage to re-design products and change their manufacturing process in order to maximize positive impacts on the environment. It is interesting to really think about the life-cycle process and how products (especially only after 6 months average) end up in landfills and are not made with that in mind. Being aware of the implications of the pile-up of consumer waste is the first step to taking action by implementing policies and practices within the beginning of companies’ strategies and models. The main question then is, when will the trend catch on and how will the majority of the companies go about it? Time will well.

  4. I agree with you that transitioning to a sustainable business model is a costly endeavor, especially for companies that have been implementing their previous manufacturing process for a long time. While newer companies can factor sustainability in their initial business model, many older companies will have to, as you said, redesign and change their entire process. Your post really makes me wonder how companies will view the costs and benefits of this decision. In my opinion, the long-term benefits of a sustainable manufacturing process would far outweigh the short-term costs of revamping the process.

  5. Sustainability within a business model is a necessity now. I find it interesting that many companies go for the “go green” initiative, but it is merely a marketing to ploy to gain a bigger consumer base. Cradle to cradle certified shows that even though companies may have to spend a little more money to make larger scale differences with environmental friendly they are willing to go that extra distance. Perhaps if more big businesses went that extra mile, instead of just promoting it, the companies would increase revenues and the environment would be helped.

  6. Wow, I definitely applaud Method for practicing cradle to cradle sustainability. In this day and age the trend is to go green and many companies actually use green washing so consumers can purchase more products, however Method is actually proving that they want to protect the environment, use less resources, and still make a profit. Cradle to Cradle business model is evolutionary for the fact that it is sustainable all the way around, in turns of manufacturing, usage, breakdown (decomposition), reuse and in other ways. Very important point is that in the beginning of manufacturing products need to be designed in away so that they can be reused again, that the materials that make up the product are able to made into other products after their use value is gone. Method is definitely pioneering the way in cleaning supplies.

  7. I love Method products so this post was extremely interesting! I knew that Method focused on environmentally friendly and health conscious products but I did not know about their Cradle to Cradle initiative. I think a lot about what happens to products after we throw them away and I can’t help but to acknowledge the fact that our world today is extremely wasteful of our resources. I think more companies should begin initiatives like the one Method has, even if it is a little more expensive because it would reduce our footprint in the long run. In a time in which everyone has an iphone, I think our culture could afford the extra couple of dollars towards sustainable practices that would help more companies to better the environment.

  8. What a great change in development Cradle to Cradle is proposing. I learned that it is cheaper to implement this change of production (or redesign as you name it) from the beginning of the creation of a product. But regardless to when this idea is implemented, it really is reasonable and worthwhile. It is true that today many industries produce products that are merely in fashion for a few years, creating great waste amounts. I find this idea to have potential and should be implemented in more than just house-hold cleaning supplies.

  9. Sustainability is a very important concern that should be at the forefront of everyone’s thinking because of the importance of keeping the environment clean so that the human race can continue its existence. I agree that Cradle to Cradle is an innovative way of attempting to make consumer goods greener, and I think they do have the potential to be successful if they are able to spread this idea to other consumer product manufacturers. From that point they could work on public awareness and spark sales of those manufacturers, but such a large change in the process may take years to affect change. Regardless, the amount of consumer goods increases by millions of items every day as more and more “disposable” items are bought around the world.

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