Mr. Kranendijk has a deep understanding of ‘hard-headed commercial strategy,’ having acted in senior management at Procter & Gamble for many years before he became President of Stanley Works EMEA in 1998. He launched his own investment firm in 2001, and became Co-Owner and Partner in asset management company Sares Invest BV in 2004.
But it wasn’t until 2007, when he and a group of other investors bought Desso from Armstrong Carpets, that Stef Kranendijk (who has acted as Desso CEO since April 2007) found a new focus for his visionary and pioneering – and practical – nature: the cradle to cradle philosophy.
In a March 2012 Harvard Business Review blog post entitled ‘I got my strategy from Greenpeace’ Mr. Kranendijk said of the Desso purchase:
“We put our money in because we saw an opportunity to turn a struggling company around and secure a high ROI. We did that. But there our story deviates from the norm because our turnaround wasn’t based on cost control, financial leverage, or manufacturing efficiencies. We chose a turnaround strategy built on a radical idea framed by a former Greenpeace activist.”
The activist was Michael Braungart, who along with William McDonough had written the seminal book ‘Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things’ ( North Point Press 2002).
The idea that ‘things’ – chairs, carpets, buildings – could be made in a such a way that they could be disassembled and the components reused to make other things, as opposed to being thrown into the bin or land fill, was revolutionary. And it spoke to Mr. Kranendijk, who had seen Prof. dr. Braungart (the C2C Chair at Erasmus University) on Dutch television, and who had immediately read the book.
His commitment became clear: To ensure that Desso is operating 100% C2C by 2020.
When he steps down as CEO of Desso Holding BV in October 2012, Mr. Kranendijk will become the company Chairman, so that this visionary approach stays in sharp focus.
“Sounds pretty idealistic, doesn't it?” he says in the HBR blog post. “Well, maybe, but it's also a hard-headed commercial strategy for the long-term. Here's why: Going Cradle to Cradle helped put us ahead of the curve on perhaps the biggest environmental trend: recycling.”
Of Note: Desso AirMaster carpet tiles actually ‘clear the air.’ This is in contrast to other types of carpeting material that may cause indoor pollution.
Upon hearing about Mr. Kranendijk’s DAA nomination, both initiators of the Cradle to Cradle philosophy – Prof. dr. Michael Braungart (C2C Chair Erasmus University) and William McDonough – sent letters enthusiastically endorsing Stef Kranendijk for a Distinguished Alumni Award.
Currently: Mr. Kranendijk will step down as CEO of Desso Holding BV in October 2012 but will stay on as the company Chairman to ensure that Desso is 100% Cradle to Cradle by 2020.