To the Designers Accord community,

I am delighted to welcome our new members, and am energized by our growing coalition of adopters, supporters, and endorsers.

In January, we announced the endorsement of the Designers Accord by two of the largest design organizations: the AIGA|the professional association for design, and the Industrial Designers Society of America (IDSA).


The alliance with these organizations is vital in furthering the reach of the Designers Accord by generating awareness and providing educational programs.

We will continue to extend the values and priorities of the Designers Accord to the entire creative community. In addition to the overwhelming support from design and innovation firms, we have been seeing increasing interest from universities and design programs throughout the world. We applaud the progressive stance of our first educational adopter: the Swinburne University Faculty of Design in Melbourne, Australia.

Swiburne University Logo

We are also thrilled to announce our first corporate adopter: Autodesk. Autodesk is the world leader in 2D and 3D design software (including AutoCAD) for the manufacturing, building and construction, and media and entertainment markets. We thank Autodesk for their proactive leadership in this area.


Both educational and corporate adopters will follow the guidelines of the Designers Accord, though they have lightly tailored versions to address their consistituents. All adopter guidelines are listed on the site.

The Designers Accord is a movement that has already exceeded expectations. We have grown from an idea to a crusade with more than fifteeen thousand adopters and supporters in just a few months. Never before have designers come together in this way to tackle a topic so complex and abstract, with such transparency and creativity. We are embracing a method of collaboration over competition, and giving ourselves permission to ask, explore, and innovate. We are poised to radically change our industry.

But these are still early days. There are few absolutes, and almost every assumption can be challenged (read Michael Spector's great article on carbon counting in the current New Yorker). While this issue may seem intractable at times, we can find comfort in the fact that we are on this journey together – sincerely addressing the challenge and opportunity of bringing sustainability into our practices, our engagements, and our work.

I receive dozens of emails and calls everyday with thoughtful comments and questions. It is incredibly reinforcing to hear about the work this community is doing, and the progress we are making. Through these monthly updates, we hope to broadcast the resources and methods that you are developing. In this month's feature, we are focusing on carbon footprint measurement. In addition to these reports, the site is continuously updated with new adopters and resources.

I am thoroughly inspired and thankful for your energetic participation and optimism.

Valerie signature
Revised Guidelines

In an effort to add greater clarity to the principles of the Designers Accord, we have reworked the Adopter Guidelines. No new guidelines have been added, and none removed. This change should help simplify communication around our mission:
  1. Publicly declare participation in this movement.

  2. Initiate a dialogue about environmental impact and sustainable alternatives with each and every client. Rework client contracts to favor environmentally responsible design and work processes. Provide strategic and material alternatives for sustainable design.

  3. Undertake a program to educate your teams about sustainability and sustainable design.

  4. Measure the carbon/greenhouse gas footprint of your firm (includes operations and client engagements), and pledge to reduce your footprint annually.

  5. Advance the understanding of environmental issues from a design perspective by contributing actively to the communal knowledge base for sustainable design.

While we have defined this set of principles (which includes a basic Code of Conduct), the Designers Accord is not a prescribed set of rules. There are too many of us, with too diverse an expertise, to create a one-size-fits-all approach. But the Designers Accord is not merely a manifesto either. Through your adoption, you have agreed to honor these principles. Some accountability is built in, but the expectation is that each of us with carry the spirit and intention of this movement forward.

Considering Contract Language

The second Designers Accord guideline suggests making contract adjustments to favor environmentally responsible design and work processes. There are many possible ways to do this, based on how you conduct business and where you add value in the system. Some adopters may choose to limit travel contractually and require the travel is offset if it exceeds a fair and reasonable amount. Many thanks to communication designer Christopher Simmons of MINE for sharing the content he uses:

MINE is a member of the American Institute of Graphic Arts ( MINE's services shall be performed in accordance with the AIGA Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct for Graphic Designers. Commitment to Sustainability: MINE is an adopter of the Designers Accord (, and has always been committed to sustainable and ecological practice. As part of our design and production services we research and specify the latest environmentally friendly materials, inks and production facilities. We work exclusively with FSC-certified printers and paper manufacturers, and favor vendors who utilize alternative energy sources. Everyone involved with the project shall be fairly compensated according to US national standards.

Media Coverage

The Designers Accord has been covered well in press. Recent notable mentions: BusinessWeek, NYT, Core77, Treehugger, Unbeige, Environmental Leader, ARCWIRE

Initiating the Conversation

Many designers ask about methods to engage clients in the conversation about environmental issues. This conversation needs to be tuned to the particular expertise and brand message of each firm, and there is no magic list of questions that should be asked by everyone. Some strategies suggested by members of our community:

arrow headIntegrate sustainability as just one of the strategic vectors used in the design process (along with a human-centered approach, business analysis, technology assessment, etc).

arrow headMention that your adoption of The Designers Accord ties you together with a vital, global design community – one that shares resources, know-how, and passion toward positive change.

arrow headCreate a space – a physical "prompt" – with real world examples of environmentally friendly and harmful products, and data about the impact. Sensory exploration and show-and-tell can be very compelling, and helpful in bringing life to these sometimes abstract issues.

arrow headGauge the level of interest and knowledge of a client and use anecdotes (stories in the public) to educate.

arrow headBe sure to highlight that sustainable design all is about adding value, and that the process is one that you can engage in collaboratively with your client.

Thanks to IDEO, Continuum, and Smart Design for these suggestions.

IDEO Awareness PDF

Educating around Sustainability

Designers Accord adopter IDEO created this document to communicate the basic principles of IDEO's approach to sustainability for clients and internal teams. This (7.6Mb) PDF includes a perspective on how to think and talk about sustainability, and describes some tools that IDEO has found useful.

Many thanks to IDEO for sharing this rich piece of sustainable design thinking with the Designers Accord community.

Designers Accord Summary

pdf icon Download the one-page informational PDF about the Designers Accord.

This is a useful tool for sharing the basic goal of the Designers Accord with clients, colleagues, and other interested parties.

What are your strategies?

Please email your methods, tools, contract samples so we can share them with the share with the Designers Accord community:

double rule

Measuring Your Footprint: A Guideline

The Designers Accord has asked sustainability consultant Natural Logic to create a methodological framework to advise our community on an approach to meet guideline #4:
“Measure the carbon/greenhouse gas footprint of your firm (includes operations and client engagements), and pledge to reduce your footprint annually."

Natural Logic is providing a way to think about why and how to measure, and what the boundaries of measurement could be.

Currently the Designers Accord is not prepared to recommend an off-the-shelf measurement tool. However, Natural Logic CEO Gil Friend has published an annotated compendium of calculators and we also have several recommended resources on the site.

Keep in mind that because we are initially focusing on carbon, even firms with lower carbon footprints may still be creating toxic products and other environmental impacts.

Please think of this measurement activity as a first step in an ongoing project; we will continue to provide more information as we develop it. We also encourage the community to share experiences and methodologies.

When the online platform launches this summer, we will be able to facilitate this conversation electronically. We will also enable adopters to voluntarily share measurements and trade best practices. Until then, please talk to your peers and community, and send your methods and tools to so we can broadcast them to the Designers Accord community.

Many thanks to Gil Friend and Natural Logic for providing this information to the Designers Accord community. Natural Logic is an adopter of the Designers Accord and also one to the primary consultancies working in this area. Visit Natural Logic for more information.

Each of us, in every action we take and in every purchasing decision we make, engages a chain of events (actually, a supply chain of events) that generate a series of unintended as well as intended effects – including the environmental consequences of resource extraction, manufacturing, transportation, product use, disposal and even recycling. 

In the creative community, we are concerned with a broad set of social and environmental concerns, including consumer over-consumption, fair treatment of workers, toxic manufacturing processes, impact on biodiversity and ecosystems, among others.

Climate change – the consequence of greenhouse gases emitted as a result of energy use, materials choice and other factors – is front of mind for us because it’s something we can each affect, in small and hopefully large ways as well. The way we begin doing this is through measuring our carbon footprints.

As part of your endorsement of the Designers Accord, you have pledged to measure the your carbon footprint, and to significantly reduce it annually. This is the start of this journey.

Why it's important

Measuring your footprint gives you a clear understanding of:

arrow headWhere you are (what the scale of your contributions is)

arrow headWhere you should focus to reduce your impacts (which sources or activities are most significant, and which can be most easily addressed)

arrow headHow you compare with similar organizations (which we hope will motivate fruitful collaboration and sharing of best practices – and a bit of friendly competition to help us all improve more quickly).

What a carbon footprint measures

A carbon footprint is not an “ecological footprint.” It is a measure of climate-changing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, not a comprehensive measure of all environmental impacts. That is not to say the latter isn’t important; it is, and it’s something touched on by many aspects of designers’ work.

We’re starting with a focus on carbon for two reasons: because it’s the front and center concern as society faces the challenges of global climate change; and because generating a comprehensive measure of environmental impact is quite complex. Let’s walk before we run.

WHAT ARE GREENHOUSE GASES, AND HOW ARE THEY MEASURED? GHGs are atmospheric chemicals that contribute to the “greenhouse effect” – the capacity of the atmosphere to trap heat that would otherwise be radiated into space. The greenhouse effect accounts for both the habitability of our planet, by maintaining life-supporting temperatures, and the climate-changing impact of anthropogenic (human-caused) GHG emissions.

The main GHGs include:
Carbon dioxide, CO2
Methane, CH4
Nitrous oxide, N2O
Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) and chlorofuorocarbons (CFCs) (covers 13 chemicals)
Perfluorocarbons, PFCs (covers seven chemicals)
Sulfur hexafluoride, SF6

GHGs are measured in metric tons of carbon equivalents (C02-eq), based on the "global warming potential" (GWP) of each greenhouse gases. Since a metric ton of methane has 22 times the impact of CO2, it’s reported as 22 metric tons of CO2-eq. Representative GWP factors (according to the US Department of Energy) follow; note that data presented by different sources may vary.

Carbon dioxide                      1
Methane, CH4                        22
Nitrous oxide, N2O                 310
HFCs                                     120-12,000
PFCs                                      5,700-11,900
SF6                                       22,200


WHY IT'S IMPORTANT THAT WE USE A CONSISTENT METHODOLOGY A consistent methodology is essential because progress — and collaboration — benefit from comparison. J.M. Juran, one of the fathers of Total Quality Management, observed in 1948 that:

 “To be in a state of self-control, a person should be provided with knowledge about:
1. what he or she is supposed to do,
2. what he [or she] is actually doing, and
3. what choices he has to improve results wherever necessary....

(Or, in more familiar language, we need to know goals or intended outcomes, actual results, and resources for change.)

“If any of these three conditions are not met,” Juran noted, “a person cannot be held responsible.” And sadly most organizations we at Natural Logic have survey lack one – or all!

When all three of these three conditions are met, however, people show a remarkable tendency to self-manage toward improvement – whether it's a Prius driver being trained to drive more efficiently by the car's in-dash MPG display, or an athlete tracking her times.

We can make meaningful comparisons only if we all use a consistent methodology, so that we're comparing apples to apples. (More or less. The truth is there are so many variables that we're not sure how consistent thousands of self-conducted designer footprints will be, but we are going to make an attempt.)

A fair question to ask is if everyone uses a different tool (there is no currently existing one-size fits all tool), how can we compare results accurately? Well, comparison is not our first concern. Essentially, we are encouraging you to reduce your footprint significantly (understanding that this is subjective), track your progress over time, and share methods and best practices with the community.


The process of measuring the carbon footprint – of a company, a project, a person – is complex but not complicated. It involves:

arrow headThinking about all your activities and purchases (Yes, all of them!)

arrow headClearly specifying the entity being measured (including the boundaries* of what's included and what's not)

arrow headDetermining the “scope” (see below) and time period (base year) of your initial analysis

arrow headIdentifying all sources of emissions within that boundary

arrow headFinding and gathering the data detailing the amount of those activities (usually in a simple but well-organized spreadsheet or a "carbon calculator" tool)

arrow headApplying accepted emissions factors – to account for both the emissions generated by different electricity generating regimes and the GWP of directly emitted GHGs

arrow headCompiling the results

arrow headReporting/communicating the results

arrow headRinse and repeat

* The boundary question has two parts: what entities will you include and
what activities will you include. You have choices in both regards. First, you can choose to measure only entities and artifacts that you own, or you can include those that you don't own but whose emissions you do control. You would exclude leased office space in the first instance, but might include it in the second instance (if you had a measure of control over office energy use). Second, you can choose how comprehensively up and down the supply chain you want to look – choosing to include only Scope 1 and 2 emissions, or Scope 3 as well.


Scope 1 addresses the direct emissions from sources you own or control: eg, from fuel burned in furnaces, boilers, generators, water heaters, and company-owned vehicles; waste decomposition; and gaseous losses of CFCs and HCFCs from chillers, refrigerators and air conditioners, and SF6 from electrical equipment.

Scope 2
addresses the emissions that result from purchased electricity, steam or chilled water. The biggest contributor here, for most of you, will be the electrical equipment you operate in the course of doing business; the emissions happen offsite, at the powerplant, but are a direct result of the amount of electricity you use – in your computers and printers, phones and cell phones, servers and prototyping equipment, etc.

Scope 3 addresses other indirect emissions that are a consequence of your activity but from sources you don't control – such as travel (clients to your site, and you to theirs), shipping of materials, products and wastes, employee commuting, brainstorming and design tools (from Styrofoam models to post-it notes and printing).

A credible footprint analysis must include both Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions. Scope 3 is optional – both whether to include it at all, and which components to include. Our suggestion is to start with the bigger ticket items like business travel, shipping, and (if you are really ambitious) employee commuting.

What is potentially the largest impact for many designers – the manufacture, distribution, use and disposal of the products they design (and the packaging that conveys them) – would strictly speaking fall under Scope 3, but is too complex for most organizations to assess. But that doesn’t mean you can’t be thinking about it – since your ability to deliver a lower footprint toothbrush, stapler, computer, car or building may be just the thing your client wants from you.

Communicating your results is key — whether formally to the Carbon Disclosure Project or a state climate registry, or informally to your staff, customers and suppliers. Remember Juran’s three points. 

There are two ways to present your footprint: absolute and comparative. Both are important. The climate cares about total emissions – and your total impact on climate change; businesses also care about comparative emissions – normalized to business output, or compared between business units. So we suggest you think about both your total emissions metric tonnage and your Carbon Intensity as well – your emissions in relation to revenues, headcount, square footage of facilities, etc.

Think about this information not just as a historical report of “how we’ve done,” but also as a management tool to help your people think about, and get smarter about, how to do your business in ways that reduce your impacts, and those of your customers. You can use static reports (on your web site, or in downloadable PDFs) or dynamic reports (in interactive dashboards) that enable people to actively compare trends, productivity and strategies.

What's good?
Zero. No emissions, 100% renewable energy. None of us are there yet, and few are likely to be any time soon, but it's worth understanding the direction we need to head.

What's a good target for improvement?
Less. What’s a better target? A lot less. What's the best target? None. (Although some companies are saying that particular best isn't good enough – and are going beyond "carbon neutral" to "carbon negative.")

Many jurisdictions have set targets of 80% reduction (from a 1990 baseline) by the year 2050. Others are calling for "zero net buildings" (using no more energy beyond what’s provided by the sun and wind that they encounter) by 2020.

What's a realistic target for you? Better than you think. As a designer you know that the best designs come when you're willing to step little outside your comfort zone. If you're not comfortable setting a bold goal like carbon neutral, consider offering a challenge – "how low can you go?" – instead of a goal.

How do I account for footprint reduction if I'm in growth mode?
If your business is growing, be sure to look at emissions productivity (metric tons/revenue) as well as total emissions (metric tons). Reducing emissions/metric ton is a good interim goal; ultimately, total emissions will need to come down as well.

(We at Natural Logic find it useful to flip the productivity metric on its head, and look at revenues per metric ton – or profit per metric ton – which puts it into language that your CFO can appreciate. Our interactive sustainability dashboard tools make it easy to look at sustainability performance indicators from many points of view.)

What about carbon offsets*?
Carbon offsets are investments in GHG reduction projects that “offset” your emissions by creating emission reductions elsewhere. While controversial (some critics liken them the ancient religious practice of selling “indulgences” to offset sin), carbon offsets – in their proper place – can be a useful part of a GHG reduction program.

What’s their useful place? Last.

Remember “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” – the familiar first things first waste management hierarchy? The same principle applies here: Reduce, Renewables, RECs.

arrow headReduce your emissions by improving your energy and resource efficiency.

arrow headReplace your current energy sources with renewable energy sources.

arrow headPurchase RECs or carbon offsets – from credible sources – to offset the impact of the emissions you have not yet been able to eliminate.

* The Designers Accord recommends using the Gold Standard for carbon offsets.

Are you creating a Designers Accord tool to calculate this?
At the moment, Natural Logic is providing guidance around an approach. There is such variation in the Designers Accord community, that it may be difficult to specify or create a one-size-fits-all tool.

Thanks again to Natural Logic for the thoughtfully conveyed content. We hope that you assimilate this information in the spirit it was made – to bring forward new thinking and exploration. We have already reached out to several members of the Designers Accord community with an expertise in this area to build on this work. If you have a suggestion for evolving this approach further, or can share a new method or practice, please email We will publish these contributions to the Designers Accord community.