Business, and Sustainability:
The Designers Accord
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In early 2007 Valerie Casey launched the
Designers Accord ( www.designersaccord.org) to
encourage design and innovation firms to focus
on creating positive environmental impacts.
Recognizing the near impossibility of changing both consumer and business behavior, the
Designers Accord asserts that the firms that
design everything from graphics and packaging
to user interface to physical products are ideally
suited to get the design-for-impact conversation
rolling. By collectively agreeing to discuss environmental impact and sustainable alternatives
with every client, designers will be able to change
the way products are designed, and that in turn
will change the way business works and consumers behave. As the expanded Web presence of the
Designers Accord approached, I spoke with Valerie
about this groundbreaking initiative.
ment that our ability to make changes is amplified when we work together.
With the Designers Accord, we’re creating a
cooperative competition model. I believe this is
where design is headed—innovation and impact
through collaboration. Designers can create
greater impact if we work together instead of individually as we’ve traditionally done. This will be a
Allison Arieff: The Designers Accord seems to
coincide with an upsurge in interest in collaborative models for business and innovation. Tell me
how it works.
Valerie Casey: The Designers Accord (DA) started as a call to arms for designers to meaningfully contribute to the environmental movement,
and to infuse it with optimism and creativity. It
is now a major coalition of designers, educators,
researchers, engineers, business consultants, and
corporations, who are working together to create
a positive environmental and social impact.
This movement has scaled so quickly—with
now tens of thousands of adopters throughout the
world—because there is a general acknowledge-
Allison: What compelled you to put this idea
out there? What put you over the edge?
Valerie: The inception of the initiative was
actually quite simple. My revelation—or, the
“spear through the heart” moment, as Ray
Anderson of FLOR calls it—happened as I was sitting on a 50-seater jet, crossing the country for
the third time in a month. I had just pitched a
packaging project for one of the world’s largest
delivery services. Earlier in the week I had discussed new diaper design with one of the world’s
largest paper-product manufacturers.
I was acutely aware of each company’s middling environmental record, but I was ill-equipped
to engage in a productive conversation with either
of them about their environmental impact, or to
propose sustainable alternatives. I was anxious
about bringing up this sensitive issue and risking
losing their business. The negative rhetoric about
the cost of green alternatives and accusations of
greenwashing has made many companies bristle
before a meaningful conversation can even begin.
That was the winter of 2007. I decided to educate myself and my design teams about green
May + June 2008