FEBRUARY 2008 | Progress Report
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.
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:
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
MINE is a member of the American Institute of Graphic Arts (aiga.org). 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 (designersaccord.org), 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 CoverageThe Designers Accord has been covered well in press. Recent notable mentions: BusinessWeek, NYT, Core77, Treehugger, Unbeige, Environmental Leader, ARCWIRE
Integrate sustainability as just one of the strategic vectors used in the design process (along with a human-centered approach, business analysis, technology assessment, etc).
Be 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.
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
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
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.
Where you are (what the scale of your contributions is)
Where you should focus to reduce your impacts (which sources or activities are most significant, and which can be most easily addressed)
How 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).
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.
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.
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:
(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.
HOW DO WE MEASURE OUR FOOTPRINT?
The process of measuring the carbon footprint – of a company, a project, a person – is complex but not complicated. It involves:
Thinking about all your activities and purchases (Yes, all of them!)
* The boundary question has two parts: what entities will you include and
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.
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.
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.
(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*?
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.
Reduce your emissions by improving your energy and resource efficiency.
* The Designers Accord recommends using the Gold Standard for carbon offsets.
Are you creating a Designers Accord tool to calculate this?
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 email@example.com. We will publish these contributions to the Designers Accord community.