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Sustainable ‘Designers Accord’ Could Revolutionize Industry

Over a year ago, product designer Valerie Casey wrote what she called “a ‘Kyoto Treaty’ of design,” an accord to focus the design world towards sustainability. Since then, it has gathered over 3,500 signees, a number which is growing rapidly and includes several multinationals and companies with internal design teams such as IDEO, SmartDesign, Continuum and frog. It has also been endorsed by the AIGA and the Industrial Designers Society of America.

It’s six-member advisory board includes Natural Capital Institute founder Paul Hawken and IDEO CEo Tim Brown. And with all of this momentum, this Designers Accord is, according to this article in Business Week, poised to catalyze the sustainable design movement in the U.S.

The accord is described as both a small nudge and radical step. The small nudge are the principles that many designers and studios are already practicing, such as educating teams about sustainability, initiating environmental impact discussions with clients, and working to reduce the carbon footprint of one’s own firm. Nonetheless, this aspect of the accord marks a paradigm shift because it indicates that for clients of design, “sustainability is going to be part of the conversation regardless of what studio they’re talking to.”

The radical step, however, comes with the second part of the accord: signers of it promise to break the traditional secrecy of the industry by sharing what they’ve learned about sustainable design. “This is significant because knowledge remains the biggest obstacle to sustainable design,” said Ric Grefe, executive director of AIGA. Designer’s Accord author Valerie Casey envisions that information will be shared on an open Web platform, but how it will happen has yet to be ironed out.

The article notes that the accord isn’t binding, so companies can easily sign and not live up to its principles. Still, the “agreement has the potential to quite dramatically change both the practice of design and the business practices of the thousands of companies who work with design consultants.

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