We’re not ready to introduce sustainability accreditation

Lynda Relph-Knight

Every so often the question of accreditation for design groups is raised, and it is invariably greeted with dissent within the industry. ‘You can’t measure creativity’ is the usual response, though, with procurement officers in the ascendancy, particularly in the public sector where accountability is key, the pressure is on to measure other aspects of a group’s business.

The mania for ticking boxes has arguably gone too far in some quarters. Take the design selection process for the 2012 London Olympics. A number of reputable creative groups, whose work is deemed exemplary by their clients and peers, have fallen at the first hurdle because a design consultancy doesn’t compare to, say, a stationery provider in the way it runs its business.

Now the Design Council is mooting some sort of sustainability accreditation to add to the load (see News, page 3). It is early days for the initiative, but for once we are able to debate its merits before the event.

We assume that, through the venture, the Design Council aims to reassure design clients that they are buying into sustainable practice. But with even well-intentioned designers and clients still groping in the dark to determine what that might entail, it is surely too early in our understanding for such a scheme to have any real meaning.

A better course might be to focus on education, in the way Ecodesign Centre Wales is doing (see News Analysis, page 9), to promote sustainability issues to students and tutors in design and business schools. We know students want it.

Couple this with awareness campaigns within UK businesses through the Design Council’s Designing Demand programme and within design by bodies such as the Design Business Association and we might get some grasp of what constitutes best practice while the next generation hone their professional skills.

This campaigning approach will surely go deeper into our culture – and be more sustainable in the long run – than a badging system at this stage. What do you think?

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