Cradle to Cradle (C2C) Certified Product and Material Health Certificates

Published: April 13, 2018 | Updated: April 13, 2018

What it is: The Cradle to Cradle (C2C) Certified™ Product Standard rates consumer products, ranging from toys and personal care items to furniture and building materials, in five categories:

Material health,

Material reutilization,

Renewable energy and carbon management,

Water stewardship, and

Social fairness.

In each category, products are rated as Basic, Bronze, Silver, Gold, or Platinum, with the overall rating set at the lowest level achieved across the categories. The standard also includes a requirement for continuous improvement/optimization, consisting of plans “for the eventual phase-out/replacement of problematic substances.” Products are recertified every two years.

The Material Health (MH) Certificate gives manufacturers the opportunity to focus only on chemical optimization for health, combining the requirements of the material health category with the continuous improvement/optimization requirements. The MH Certificate rates products at the Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Platinum levels.

Application to practice: C2C product certifications, which address social impacts along with health and environmental concerns, are one of the more comprehensive options for designers and consumers interested in a holistic picture of a given material.

The Material Health attribute achievement level of the full certification and the MH Certificate considers potential hazards from chemicals relating to 24 human and environmental health metrics, along with potential exposure during manufacturer, use and end-of-life phases. Assessments are conducted by chemists and toxicologists. The level of certification indicates the level of optimization:

  - Bronze: Does not contain any Cradle to Cradle Certified C2C Banned List chemicals

  - Silver: No exposure from carcinogens, mutagens, or reproductive toxicants

  - Gold: Safe for humans and the environment, fully optimized

  - Platinum: Process chemicals have also met Gold requirements

While all chemicals present at 100 parts per million are disclosed to the assessor, the program does not require public disclosure of ingredients. This helps to protect suppliers’ proprietary information, allowing manufacturers to minimize product impacts and provide analysis on contents and effects to designers and consumers, but does not advance transparency.

Governing organization: The Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute (C2CPII) is a non-profit organization co-founded by William McDonough and Dr. Michael Braungart (co-authors of 2002’s Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things) to bring about a large-scale transformation in the way things are made. The Institute's mission is to provide a continuous improvement quality standard to guide product manufacturers in making products that are regenerative, beneficial, and mimic natural systems.

Standards used: Cradle to Cradle Certified™ Product Standard and Material Health Assessment Methodology. These standards are updated as needed; as of January 2017, the Product Standard has been updated to Version 3.1, while the Material Health Assessment Methodology was updated in May 2017. The C2CPII maintains a comprehensive list of program standards, policies, and other resources, such as trademark and marketing guidance.

Verification levels and availability: Details are publicly available for:

First-party verifications, or claims made by the manufacturer: Not applicable for C2C.

Second-party verifications, in which the party has a financial interest in the transaction: Not applicable for C2C.

Third-party verifications, or an independent assessment that specific requirements have been met: C2C certifies products through a trained, accredited network of independent assessment bodies, and scores for products are publicly available.

Product CSI Division and types: All divisions eligible.C2C publishes a full list of C2C certified products and Material Health Certificates.

Costs: Access to the searchable database of certified products and Material Health Certificates is free-of-charge, while manufacturers pay fees for new product applications and annual product certifications.

Scope: Limited to the product level. C2C full product certificates look at health, social, and environmental impacts, while the C2C material health certificate considers only health criteria.

Applicable certifications:

  - Applicable to: LEED v4, LEED 2009 (ID credit), WELL, BREEAM NL, LBC

  - Not applicable to: Green Globes   

Additional Resources:

The C2CPII provides detailed information about the material health certificate and the full product certificate on its website.

Book: Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things by William McDonough and Michael Braungart

Book: The Upcycle: Beyond Sustainability—Designing for Abundance by William McDonough and Michael Braungart

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