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William McDonough      

Renowned Architectural Designer, Advisor & Co-Author of "Cradle to Cradle + The Upcycle"

William McDonough is a globally recognized leader in sustainable design and development. He co-authored "Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things" (2002), widely recognized as a seminal text of both the sustainability and the Circular Economy design movements.

He advises global leaders through McDonough Innovation and is an architect with William McDonough + Partners. His architecture firm is known for having designed many of the primary icons of the sustainable architecture movement. Through his third firm, MBDC, he created the Cradle to Cradle Certified™ Products Program and co-founded the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute, which administers the program. Cradle to Cradle Certified® is an independent, science-based, third-party, multi-attribute product standard recognized by the world’s leading retailers, including Amazon, Home Depot, Walgreens and Walmart.

He has been active with the World Economic Forum for 25 years and served as the inaugural chair of their Meta-Council on the Circular Economy. He has co-founded four not-for-profit organizations, including GreenBlue, Sustainable Packaging Coalition, and Fashion for Good, a joint-industry initiative aiming to transform the global apparel chain into a force for good.

McDonough received the Presidential Award for Sustainable Development (1996), the first U.S. EPA Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award (2003), the National Design Award (2004) and the Fortune Award for Circular Economy Leadership (2017). Time magazine recognized him as a “Hero for the Planet,” noting: “His utopianism is grounded in a unified philosophy that—in demonstrable and practical ways—is changing the design of the world," and in 2019 Fortune magazine named him one of the World's Greatest Leaders.

Speech Topics

Create More Good, Rather Than Do Less Bad

William McDonough believes that we can create a delightfully diverse, safe, healthy, and just world, with clean air, soil, water, and power--economically, equitably, ecologically, and elegantly enjoyed. Why not? McDonough discusses why efficiency alone is not going to solve the problems we face as a planet--efficiency, sustainability, and the reduction of carbon-footprint only slow the inevitable. Rather than striving to do less bad, McDonough advocates for a new paradigm geared towards increasing positive impacts. Through his illuminating discussion, McDonough maps out:

What it means to build like a tree and rethink design to create products, industries and processes with positive impacts

How modern businesses and communities are accepting the challenge of improving the planet by moving beyond efficiency with the protocols of eco-effectiveness

How companies can leverage efficiency to become 100% renewably powered

Why we are faced with a materials problem rather than an energy problem and what that means for industry

Putting Eco-Effectiveness into Practice for a Cradle to Cradle World

Internationally recognized for his innovative and groundbreaking design ideas, William McDonough explains how we can change the impact of human industry on the environment while encouraging economic success. He takes audiences on a captivating journey, describing how we can all become thoughtfully engaged in a magnificent design assignment that can be understood on a personal level. Audiences gain an understanding of this powerful paradigm for viewing the world for positive impact at all levels as an individual, a professional, and a citizen of the global community. In his stimulating and innovative presentation, McDonough describes:

The best and worst in the history of human design from Thomas Jefferson to Thomas Edison

Puts to rest myths and misconceptions surrounding the effectiveness of banning materials and explain the importance of separating the organic cycle from the technical cycle

Explains the importance of enterprise large and the transformative nature of commerce itself, acting in society's best interest based on the simple notion that the first job of business is keep your customers alive and thriving

Presents new strategies of change for eco-intelligence to help guide our endeavors at every level from the making of molecules to the planning of regions

Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things

In an eye-opening and provocative presentation based on the book he co-authored with German chemist Michael Braungart, Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things, American architect William McDonough challenges the way we think about waste, recycling and designing for a planet approaching nine billion. He explains that the widely accepted goals of sustainability and eco-efficiency actually create unbelievable amounts of waste and pollutionthey simply wont be enough. Instead of focusing on reducing footprint, McDonough urges that products be designed to continuously travel in nutrient cyclesbiological (they go back to the soil) or technical (they stay in the use and production cycle safely forever). With this Cradle to Cradle framework in mind, McDonough has shaped the design of everything from carpet to corporate campuses. He shows audiences that:

Design is the first signal of human intention and the key to solving the planets most pressing problems

Recycling is ineffective it is really just a process of downcycling products into low-grade materials that will eventually become waste

Anyone involved in making anything can put eco-effectiveness into practice

Businesses can lead the way on climate change with velocity and scale

If revolutionized, human industry does not have to damage the natural world - products can be designed in a way that they will actually act as revitalizing nutrients for the environment when they are no longer needed


Cradle to Cradle: An interview with William McDonough
William McDonough is a leading light in creating not just architecture, but entire systems of non-toxic, no-waste production.
Bloomberg Radio Interview with William McDonough
Cory Johnson and Carol Massar of Bloomberg Radio interviewed William McDonough at Sage Summit 2015 in New Orleans.
William McDonough to Share Roadmap for Sustainable Innovation at 2014 NAEM Forum
Washington, DC, July 16, 2014 - Sustainability thought leader William McDonough will make the business case for the circular economy as the opening keynote speaker for NAEM's 23rd annual EHS Management Forum on Oct. 22-14 in Austin.
Architect and Sustainability Pioneer William McDonough Unveils ...
DAVOS, Switzerland, Jan. 18, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- Designer and thought leader William McDonough will debut ICEhouse™ (Innovation for the Circular ...
William McDonough Helps the World Economic Forum Set the Agenda .
Jan 22, 2014 - 22, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- William McDonough Helps the World Economic Forum ... PR Newswire: news distribution, targeting and monitoring.

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