Sustainable Development Commission chairman Jonathon Porritt says designers must cure themselves of ‘client dependency syndrome’ to further sustainable design. Is CDS debilitating, and what is the remedy?

As an industry we have, for too long, hidden behind the excuse of not having the time or resources to learn about sustainability. Our clients face some very big challenges, not least new legislative measures that will result in hefty fines for poor performance. My advice? If it’s keeping them awake at night, it should be keeping us awake, too. Perhaps we’d take this more seriously if they were to ask us to indemnify them against the impact of our poor choice of materials or processes in getting their products or services to market.
Deborah Dawton, Chief executive, Design Business Association


It is no good dumping clients – we still need to earn a living. People will always have problems they ask designers to solve, but what we are trialling is the idea that designers’ creativity and skills can be used more entrepreneurially, pre-empting problems that could become design opportunities to be solved, profitably. This new working model will require building new kinds of relationships where clients become partners.
Clare Brass, Seed Foundation

I think clients are increasingly looking to designers to challenge their thinking. Jonathon Porritt has spoken before about the need for structural changes if we are to meet the challenges posed by the climate crunch, the energy crunch and the credit crunch. Creative rethinking is required, not just in the design of products but in how businesses are run and connect with stakeholders. There’s an opportunity to get rid of client dependency by showing the value that our thinking and principles can bring to big business issues.
Olivia Sprinkel, Head of employee engagement, Salter Baxter


Clients putting the brakes on sustainable design is not a world we recognise. Most clients are increasingly aware of the issues and want to constantly improve the impact and efficiency of their communication, both in terms of message as well as production and distribution. On client dependency, they are as dependent on good consultancy advice as we are on them. It is about making sure you have productive relationships.
Tom Robinson, Chief executive, Addison

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