William McDonough

architect  •  advisor  •  designer  •  thought leader  •  author

William McDonough

Born in 1951, William McDonough was first introduced to closed loop material cycles during his time growing up in Japan and Hong Kong. McDonough began his architecture career by building the first solar heated house in Ireland, and in 1981, established his architecture firm, William McDonough + Partners, dedicating his practice to design that is native to place. In 1992, McDonough was commissioned by the City of Hannover, Germany, to co-author The Hannover Principles: Design for Sustainability. McDonough co-founded his second company, MBDC in 1995, a green-chemistry product assessment firm. The co-authoring and publication of his book, Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things (2002) followed by The Upcycle: Beyond Sustainability–Designing for Abundance (2013) established McDonough as a leader in the circular economy and sustainable design movement. Through his third company, McDonough Innovation, he provides counsel to clients and executive leaders through the lens of Cradle to Cradle Design™️. 

Today, McDonough focuses on thought leadership, spreading his teachings and ideas through writing and speaking with global leaders, governments, corporations and the youth to inspire sustainable practices for a net-positive future. The William MCDonough Foundation, launching in 2024, is founded on principles developed over McDonough’s 50 year career. The foundation will serve as a compass for intergenerational design to support a safe, then circular future that benefits our planet for generations to come.

Download PDF: William McDonough Biography

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Author / Speaker

William McDonough has written and lectured extensively on design as the first signal of human intention.

  • In 1991, McDonough was commissioned to write The Hannover Principles: Design for Sustainability as guidelines for the City of Hannover’s EXPO 2000, still recognized two decades after publication as a touchstone of sustainable design.
  • In 2002, McDonough co-authored Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things (North Point Press), which is widely acknowledged as a seminal text of the sustainability movement.
  • In the spring of 2013, McDonough co-authored, The Upcycle: Beyond Sustainability–Designing for Abundance (North Point Press).
    In 2016, McDonough articulated a “New Language for Carbon” for human use as living, durable and fugitive carbon published in Nature as “Carbon is Not The Enemy.”

William McDonough’s written works are available on Amazon


Mr. McDonough has been talking on the world stage for many years, from delivering keynote speeches, to being a panelist, to participating in fireside chats about how to drive the circular economy and circular carbon economy forward. Below are some of his most notable highlights, from his now infamous TED talk to his most recent CNBC feature:

William McDonough at CNBC Sustainable Returns 2023 “Rethinking Carbon in a Circular Economy” 

From Net Zero to Net Positive | Fortune

Discovering the Obvious | TEDxKAUST 

Cradle to Cradle Design | TED Talk

Watch William McDonough’s videos and interviews on YouTube

 Selected Honors / Awards

  • TIME100 Climate List of the 100 Most Influential Leaders Driving Business Climate Action, 2023
  • World’s 50 Greatest Leaders, Fortune Magazine, 2019
  • Award for Circular Economy Leadership, World Economic Forum, 2017
  • US Green Building Council Leadership Award, 2016
  • J.N. Darling Conservation Award, National Wildlife Federation, 2014
  • Rachel Carson Environmental Award, Natural Products Award, 2013
  • 21st Century Visionary Science Leadership Award, U.S. EPA, 2008
  • Presidential Green Chemistry Award, President George W. Bush (for work with Shaw Industries/Berkshire Hathaway), 2004
  • National Design Award, The Smithsonian Institution, Cooper-Hewitt Museum, 2004
  • Benjamin Botwinick Prize for Ethical Practice in the Professions, Columbia University Business School, 2003
  • Hero for the Planet, Time Magazine, 1999
  • United States Presidential Award for Sustainable Development, President Clinton, 1996