Photograph of William McDonough
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 an architect and a globally recognized leader in sustainable design development. He was the inaugural chair of the World Economic Forum’s Meta-Council on the Circular Economy and currently serves on the Forum’s Global Future Council on the Future of Environment and Natural Resource Security. For more than 40 years, McDonough has defined the principles of the sustainability movement.

McDonough has written and lectured extensively on design as the first signal of human intention. He was commissioned to write The Hannover Principles: Design for Sustainability as guidelines for the City of Hannover’s EXPO 2000, and he is co-author of Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things (2002), and its follow up, The Upcycle: Beyond Sustainability-Designing for Abundance (2013). McDonough also shared a “New Language of Carbon,” which illustrates a values-based terminology that recognizes carbon as an asset, rather than a toxin, and the life-giving carbon cycle as a model for human designs.

McDonough is the architect of many notable landmark buildings in the sustainability movement including Ford’s River Rouge plant in Dearborn, Michigan; Herman Miller’s GreenHouse factory and offices in Holland, Michigan; Hero MotoCorp’s Garden Factory in Neemrana, India; Nike’s European headquarters in Hilversum, The Netherlands; and the Gap’s corporate campus at 901 Cherry in San Bruno, California – now YouTube’s headquarters. His architecture and community design practice, William McDonough + Partners, continues to design major projects for leading corporate, not-for-profit, and residential clients.

McDonough also advises commercial and governmental leaders worldwide through McDonough Innovation, as well as MBDC, the Cradle to Cradle Design consulting firm he co-founded. He also co-founded two not-for-profit organizations to increase public accessibility to Cradle to Cradle thinking: GreenBlue (2000), to convene industry groups around Cradle to Cradle issues; and the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute (2009), to expand the rigorous product certification program. He co-founded and launched Fashion for Good (2017), a joint-apparel initiative which articulates and supports McDonough’s Five Goods based on Cradle to Cradle Design.

McDonough received the Presidential Award for Sustainable Development (1996), the first U.S. EPA Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award (2003), and the National Design Award. More recently, he received the 2017 Fortune Award for Circular Economy Leadership in Davos. In 2019 Fortune magazine named him one of the World’s 50 Greatest Leaders and Time magazine recognized him as a “Hero for the Planet,” noting: “His utopianism is grounded in a unified philosophy that—in demonstrable and practical ways—is changing the design of the world.”


  • 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 Biodiversity and the Bio-economy, 2018-present
  • Member, Global Future Council on the Future of Environment and Natural Resource Security, 2016-2017
  • 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

Selected Honors and Awards

  • 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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