William McDonough Delivers Keynote to Aspiring Climate Leaders at the Climatebase Fellowship 

On Friday March 15, William McDonough, Chief Executive of McDonough Innovation, delivered a keynote to inspire those in the Climatebase Fellowship program. McDonough, a globally-renowned speaker who was recently named to the TIME100 Climate Leaders list, spoke on his approach to sustainability, leadership and philosophy to work towards a circular economy. The Climatebase Fellowship participants are made up of those who seek professional development and aim to kickstart their careers in the climate solutions community. 

McDonough broke down his sustainability approach from start to finish, beginning with principles, visions and goals, and then moving on to strategies, tactics, metrics and value: 

McDonough outlined The Hannover Principles (1992). These sustainability principles were commissioned of William McDonough + Partners by the city of Hannover, Germany to inform the 2000 World’s Fair. These principles include: insisting on the right of humanity and nature to coexist, eliminating the concept of waste, relying on natural energy flows, and seeking constant improvement by sharing knowledge. 

Moving on to ‘visions’, McDonough focused on his EESG Design Framework™️ (Environmental, Economic, Social and Governance), where the Triple Top Line is where growth and revenue converge, and the Triple Bottom Line (the Circular Economy) is where profit and gain meet. To design a circular economy, we must ask: are we following the laws of nature? Are we providing ecological benefits while doing business? And are we enhancing the atmosphere, rivers and more for future generations? 

When approaching ‘goals’, McDonough shared that it is not about creating something “less bad,” but rather about producing something that is “more good”. Through this approach, we can go beyond achieving “net zero”; with continuous improvement we can optimize our results by striving to achieve “net positive.” 

To drive McDonough’s message on strategies, tactics, metrics and resulted value, McDonough provided examples that were achieved through a Cradle to Cradle-inspired design approach. This approach has been used in a variety of industries by McDonough, including in architecture (Ford River Rouge–8 hectare green roof–1999), to fashion (Ralph Lauren designing the world’s first Cradle to Cradle Certified® cashmere sweater–2023), to assessing products by L’Oreal that achieved Cradle to Cradle certification (world’s largest personal care company). 

Emphasizing the importance of the points discussed by McDonough, some inspired participants of Climatebase Fellowship shared the following: 

“It was really inspiring hearing his perspective. I felt like he helped re-orient me to what’s important: to focus on moving forward and staying hopeful, thinking about how we can change for the better.”

“I feel like I have learned more in this hour than I have in the last year. What a GREAT presentation!”

To end the keynote, McDonough provided a final takeaway: “all sustainability is local.” 

About The Climatebase Fellowship: 

“The Climatebase Fellowship is the climate career accelerator designed to help ambitious mission-driven professionals supercharge their careers in climate, land their next job, or start their own projects and ventures. The Climatebase Fellowship combines a 12-week industry-oriented educational program and ongoing community membership throughout the year. Fellows have access to expert guest speaker sessions, career support, project-based work, and a supportive network of highly talented peers. Applications for Cohort 6 of the Fellowship are now open.”

To learn more about the Climatebase Fellowship, click here.