Is Bill McDonough The Next Adam Smith? His Cradle-to-Cradle Paradigm May Be The Next Phase of Capitalism.

Bruce Nussbaum

Bill McDonough has opened a San Francisco office because he is getting so much architectural work from the likes of Google, VM Ware and other Silicon Valley companies who are into green design. He's also working on a huge sustainable cities project in China that he recently talked about in Davos.

But McDonough's most important work goes beyond his architecture to his philosophy. Simply put, if we change the chemical base of production from toxic to benign/organic chemicals, we can sustain our planet while maintaining a high level of economic growth.

Let me quote from his website about Cradle-to-Cradle, his book:

"William McDonough's new book, written with his colleague, the German chemist Michael Braungart, is a manifesto calling for the transformation of human industry through ecologically intelligent design. Through historical sketches on the roots of the industrial revolution; commentary on science, nature and society; descriptions of key design principles; and compelling examples of innovative products and business strategies already reshaping the marketplace, McDonough and Braungart make the case that an industrial system that "takes, makes and wastes" can become a creator of goods and services that generate ecological, social and economic value."

Adam Smith is well-known for his "invisible hand" theory of markets, which has been the key paradigm of capitalism for the past several centuries. It deal with the key constraint of that era--stultifying statism/feudalism/communism. Cradle-to-cradle has to potential to be the next great capitalist paradigm because it addresses the key issue of our day--how to grow and prosper in a world on fire.

It's time we looked at cradle-to-cradle an economic system, not a "green" or "sustainable" solution.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.