Valerie Casey's mission to raise awareness about sustainable practices up and down the supply chain has sprouted wings. What began in mid-2007 as a draft set of principles to help designers engage their clients in discussions about environmental responsibility has become a global movement.
Casey, an industrial designer and global practice leader at Palo Alto, Calif.-based design giant Ideo, was troubled by the fact that she was helping customers some of the world's leading brand owners create products that were not always good for the environment. That led her to create a series of principles that she dubbed the Designers Accord, with the lofty aim of being ``a global coalition of designers, educators, and corporate leaders, working together to create positive social and environmental impact.''
The mission: to integrate sustainable design principles into practice and production, and stimulate innovation throughout the creative community by using an open-source approach to sharing intelligence about sustainability.
Casey, who spoke at the recent Sustain '08 plastic business summit in Chicago, explained how it works:
``We advocate inverting the traditional model of competition, and encourage sharing best practices so we can innovate more efficiently. We will:
* Ask all adopters to engage in conversation about social and environmental impact with every client and customer, and integrate sustainable alternatives in their work.
* Create a real-world and online network to enable conversation about opportunities and challenges in creating sustainable products, services and businesses.''
Established as a not-for-profit organization, the Designers Accord has become something of a global phenomenon. In July 2007, shortly after the first major news story about it appeared, 450 people in three countries adopted its principles. That number now has swelled to more than 140,000 people in well over 100 countries, covering every discipline of design. Casey said 65 percent of the adopters are from outside the U.S., including many manufacturers.
Joining (at www.designersac cord.org) is free and adherence to the principles is voluntary.
Corporate adopters of the accord undertake the following:
* Publicly declare participation in the Designers Accord.
* Provide strategic and material alternatives for sustainable design of products and services, and pledge to help customers reduce their negative impact.
* Undertake a program to educate your teams about sustainability and sustainable design.
* Consider your ethical footprint. Begin by measuring the carbon/greenhouse gas footprint of your firm, and pledge to reduce your footprint annually.
* Advance the understanding of environmental and social issues from a design perspective by actively contributing to the communal knowledge base for sustainable design.
Stressing the aim of combining personal accountability with collective action, Casey noted that the Designers Accord recently launched a new Web site featuring various case studies, with the aim of stimulating more dialogue and sharing best practices. Focus areas include such topics as materials, packaging design, product design, life-cycle analysis, carbon footprint, and more.
Casey closed her presentation by quoting environmentalist, entrepreneur and author Paul Hawken. Commenting on the environmental challenges facing mankind, Hawken said: ``A lot of people including me wish the problem would go away, but once you see it, it's impossible to unsee.''