William McDonough Bio Picture - Born in Japan, February 20, 1951.

William McDonough was first introduced to closed loop material cycles while growing up in Japan and Hong Kong. He was born in Tokyo on February 20, 1951.

William McDonough is a globally recognized leader in sustainable development and is the founding principle of the firm. After establishing William McDonough Architects in New York in 1981, he later moved the practice, which became William McDonough + Partners, to Charlottesville, Virginia, in 1994, when he became Dean of the School of Architecture at the University of Virginia.

William McDonough + Partners, McDonough’s award-winning architecture and community design practice at the forefront of the green building movement, is dedicated to place-specific, high performance designs that support ecological health and human well-being. As one of the pioneers of the green building movement, McDonough has earned the reputation of being “the leading environmental architect of our time.” After building the first solar house in Ireland, McDonough designed the first “green office” in New York, for the Environmental Defense Fund (1985), which set the modern green building movement in motion, inspired the formation of the U.S. Green Building Council, and established many of the principles and practices that have come to define sustainable design.

Landmark projects throughout the decades include—Herman Miller’s “Greenhouse” Factory and Offices; Gap, Inc.’s Corporate Campus (now the YouTube headquarters); Nike’s European Headquarters; and the Adam Joseph Lewis Center for Environmental Studies at Oberlin College—were followed by other commissions that have become the flagships of 21st century environmental design: Ford Motor Company’s River Rouge truck plant, widely celebrated for its pioneering and iconic 10-acre “living roof”; NASA’s Sustainability Base, the “first space station on Earth,” one of the most innovative buildings in the federal portfolio and the winner of the 2013 Governor’s Environmental and Economic Leadership Award, California’s most prestigious environmental honor; and Park 20|20 in the Netherlands, a new model of mixed-use, transit-oriented, Cradle to Cradle-inspired urban development, which was awarded a 2010 American Society of Landscape Architecture Honor Award for creating a dynamic environmental system that enhances the local community, its ecosystem and its economy.

McDonough is co-creator of the Cradle to Cradle® framework for design, and foundation of the Cradle to Cradle Certified™ Products Program, a global standard for the design of safe, healthy products; business strategist for leading global companies; and an advisor to the United Nations, the Ministry of Science and Technology of the People’s Republic of China, the Clinton Global Initiative and the World Economic Forum. William McDonough is also author of The Hannover Principles: Design for Sustainability (1992), which remains a touchstone of the movement, and co-author of the widely influential Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things (2002) and The Upcycle: Beyond Sustainability—Designing for Abundance (2013). McDonough’s writings are widely published in magazines, newspapers, journals and other periodicals. He writes a regular blog in The Guardian, is featured in The McDonough Conversations with Joel Makower of GreenBiz.com, and writes for The Huffington Post on a regular basis.

McDonough is a globally recognized designer, thought leader and sustainable growth pioneer and the pre-eminent voice for the world-changing power of ecologically intelligent design and what he calls “waging peace through commerce.” For more than 40 years he has set the terms and defined the principles of the sustainability movement, creating its seminal buildings, products, texts and enterprises and preparing the ground for its widespread growth.

In recognition of his visionary work, McDonough has received the Presidential Award for Sustainable Development (1996), for exemplary leadership and public service; the U.S. EPA Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award (2003), for groundbreaking innovations in product development; and the Smithsonian’s National Design Award (2004), for outstanding achievement in environmental design.  In 2012, McDonough began an unprecedented collaboration with Stanford University Libraries to create a “living archive” of sustainability with real-time collection of his professional papers and current communications serving as its centerline. In addition to his involvement with Stanford, William McDonough serves on Arizona State’s Board of Directors for Sustainability. He was the Inaugural Chair of the World Economic Forum’s Meta-Council on the Circular Economy (2014-2016) and currently serves on the Forum’s Global Future Council on the Future of Environment and Natural Resource Security.

Time named him “Hero for the Planet” in 1999, stating that his “utopianism is grounded in a unified philosophy that—in demonstrable and practical ways—is changing the design of the world.” He is among the world’s leading design entrepreneurs, actively advancing a positive, values-based approach to sustainable growth through the work of numerous global enterprises. Through his companies and collaborations, William McDonough established the Cradle to Cradle CertifiedTM Program as a leading product certification system, a business strategy for sustainable growth, and an overarching design paradigm, applicable in multiple sectors at multiple scales.

The architecture firm often works with McDonough’s other companies, MBDC and McDonough Innovation. MBDC was co-founded by McDonough and German chemist Dr. Michael Braungart. For nearly 20 years, McDonough and MBDC have helped leading companies Shaw Industries, Method, Herman Miller, Steelcase, Centria, Owens Corning, Dow Chemical Company, Procter & Gamble, Alcoa, FedEx and the U.S. Postal Service profitably implement the Cradle to Cradle framework for continuous improvement. Through McDonough Innovation, McDonough provides targeted ideas and strategic business solutions to corporate officers, senior executives and government leaders worldwide, helping organizations embed principled innovation and continuous improvement into strategic planning, product development, and corporate culture.

In addition to his commercial enterprises, McDonough has co-founded a number of not-for-profit organizations to provide widespread access to the Cradle to Cradle paradigm, including GreenBlue (2000), which convenes industry groups around Cradle to Cradle strategies and includes, among other initiatives, the Sustainable Packaging Coalition; the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute (2009), to donate the certification program to the public realm and scale up its implementation; and, with Brad Pitt, Make It Right (2006-2017), to bring affordable Cradle to Cradle-inspired homes to New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward after Hurricane Katrina.

A highly sought-after speaker, McDonough has addressed hundreds of institutions all over the world, from Beijing to Johannesburg, New Delhi to New York City. Among these include major speeches to the United Nations; World Economic Forum; Clinton Global Initiative; Schmidt-MacArthur Lectures; Fortune Brainstorm Green; Wall Street Journal’s ECO:nomics; the California Academy of Sciences; the New York Times Energy for Tomorrow Conference; Dartmouth College’s Leading Voices Series; University of California, Berkeley, Haas School of Business; Stanford University Libraries; USGBC’s Greenbuild, the AIA national convention, and many other venues. Recent speeches include keynotes at both the 2013 and 2014 Waste Management Executive Sustainability Forums; addressing the United Nations General Assembly Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals; and serving as convener, leader, and presenter at the 2014 Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum, which, for the first time, made sustainability a primary focus.

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  • Yale University, Master of Architecture, 1976
  • Dartmouth College, Bachelor of Arts (Visual Studies), Magna cum Laude, Phi Beta Kappa, 1973



University of Virginia

  • Dean, School of Architecture and Edward E. Elson Professor of Architecture, 1994–1999
  • Darden School of Business, Alumni Research Chair, Visiting Executive Lecturer, 1999–present

University of Cambridge

  • Sustainability Leadership Council, Founding Member, 2007–present

Stanford University

  • Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Adjunct Professor  2004–present
  • Stanford University Libraries Living Archive of William McDonough

Yale University

  • School of Forestry & Environmental Studies Leadership Council, Member, 2002–present

Arizona State University

  • Global Institute of Sustainability, Board Member, 2007–present

Instituto de Empresa

  • Eco-Intelligent Management Center, Chair, 2004–2006

Cornell University

  • A.D. White Professor-at-Large, 1999–2005

Tongji University

  • Honorary Professor, 2004-present



World Economic Forum

  • Member, Global Future Council on the Future of Environment and Natural Resource Security, 2016-present
  • Chair, MetaCouncil on the Circular Economy, 2014-2016
  • Sustainability Program Designer, Presenter and Moderator, 2014
  • Global Agenda Council on Design, Member, 2010
  • Global Agenda Council on Cities, 2011
  • Global Agenda Council on the Future of Sustainable Construction, Chairman, 2008–2010
  • Cultural Leader, 2002–2008

China-U.S. Center for Sustainable Development

  • U.S. Board of Councilors, Founding Chairman (1999 – 2009) and Chairman Emeritus (2009 – present)

U.N. Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals

  • Presenter and Panel Participant, 2014

U.N. Conference on Environment & Development (The Earth Summit)

  • Official Representative for Architecture and City Planning, International Union of Architects and the American Institute of Architects (dual role), Rio de Janeiro, 1992

Preparatory Committee for UNCED (The Earth Summit)

  • Official Representative, New York, 1992



  • Walmart, External Advisory Council, 2009–2013
  • General Electric, Ecomagination, Board of Advisors, 2008–2009
  • Dow Jones Sustainability Index, Advisory Board, 2004–present
  • VantagePoint Capital Partners, Senior Advisor, 2004–2015
  • Cherokee Sustainability Advisory Council, member, 2004–present
  • SAP CEO Sustainability Advisory Panel, member, 2011–present
  • Agilyx, Advisory Board, 2017-present



  • Fashion for Good, Co-founder, 2017
  • Clinton Global Initiative, Advisor, 2013-2016
  • Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute, Co-Founder, 2009
  • Make It Right Foundation, Co-Founder, 2006; Advisory Board, 2006–2017
  • Healthy Child Healthy World, Advisory Board, 2006–present
  • Green Blue, Co-Founder, 2002
  • President’s Council on Sustainable Development, Special Advisor to President Clinton, 1993–1996
  • W. Alston Jones Foundation, Board of Trustees, 1992-1996
  • Cherokee-McDonough Challenge, Advisor, 2012 – present
  • H. John Hinz III Center for Science, Economics, and the Environment, Board of Trustees, 2001-2005



  • American Institute of Architects, Fellow, 1997–present; Committee on the Environment, Founding Member
  • Royal Institute of British Architects, International Fellow, 2008–present
  • Urban Land Institute, Fellow, 1999–present
  • U.S. Green Building Council, Charter Member
  • American Society of Landscape Architects, Honorary Membership, 2008



  • United States Presidential Award for Sustainable Development, 1996
  • Time Magazine Hero for the Planet, 1999
  • Interiors Magazine, Designer of the Year, 1999
  • I.D. Magazine, I.D. Forty Design Award, 2001
  • Columbia University Business School, Benjamin Botwinick Prize for Ethical Practice in the Professions, 2003
  • The Smithsonian Institution, Cooper-Hewitt Museum, National Design Award, 2004
  • Presidential Green Chemistry Award (for work with Shaw Industries/Berkshire Hathaway), 2004
  • U.S. EPA, 21st Century Visionary Science Leadership Award, 2008
  • Rachel Carson Environmental Award, Natural Products Award, 2013
  • National Wildlife Federation, J.N. “Ding” Darling Conservation Award, 2014
  • US Green Building Council Leadership Award, 2016
  • The Circulars, Fortune Award for Circular Economy Leadership, 2017
  • World Green Building Council, David Gottfried Global Green Building Entrepreneurship Award, 2017
  • Hanley Wood Award for Vision and Leadership in Sustainability, 2017


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