Architect and author William McDonough said that businesses need to shift their focus from just reducing emissions to optimising positive impacts such as material use.

Arguing that eco-designers have an important role to play in stimulating a more ethical business environment, he said companies needed to offer products that pose no risk to society and that become nourishment for something new at the end of their useful life.

Emphasising that “less bad is still bad”, McDonough questioned: “Why don’t we start designing things so we understand what’s going to happen next?”

He added that once business intentions are be rooted in principles of smart design, government guardians won’t be required as commerce will be free to create value quickly, efficiently, innovatively and honestly.

Designers and engineers consciously or unconsciously determine 80% of a product’s environmental impact through the decisions they make.

As thinking around circular economics starts to heighten, there is a growing realisation that future efficiencies around material use need to shift from end-of-life to start-of-life.

McDonough was speaking at a sustainability symposium earlier this month at US-based Duquesne University, where Procter & Gamble (P&G) was recognised with an award for its sustainability achievements.

P&G’s associate director of global sustainability Jack McAneny accepted the award and spoke about the company’s long-term commitment to using 100% renewable energy and making products and packaging entirely from recycled materials.

Maxine Perella

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