On the way to a sustainable supermarket of the future

Content overview:

1.) Principles of Cradle to Cradle

2.) The challenge for the Design Thinking Workshop (GDTW)

3.) Why the GDTW is the right framework for this challenge.

4.) What should the supermarket of the future look like?


This article is interesting for @graduates @young professionals @students @entrepreneurs


Our project partner Cradle to Cradle (C2C)

“Think positive!” This call is easier said than done. Aren't the problems around us overwhelming? Climate change, environmental pollution, natural disasters, wars – to name just a few man-made sources of fire – are such that we sit back at a loss and ask ourselves: “What can I do to change this?” Cradle to Cradle (C2C) takes exactly this hurdle: an elegant jump. The NGO does not accept the “We must produce less this and consume less that” approach. C2C consciously looks for added value. “If we only cause less damage through our actions, we will only postpone the problems we cause, but not solve them,” can be read in the principles of C2C.


A challenge for practical solutions for a sustainable circular economy

C2C's projects use concrete examples to show what a sustainable circular economy with direct benefits for everyone involved can look like. These projects result in organizers, producers, and suppliers being enriched with practical experience and sensitized consumers who actively participate in the pilot projects. The guiding principle throughout is that the more concrete the experience of everyone involved, the closer we come to attractive solutions with added value for the environment and society. This was the challenge that C2C posed to the Global Design Thinking Workshop (GDTW) participants of HPI d–school in March 2024: “Rethink the supermarket as a focal point of urban life and a place where people encounter all relevant questions about sustainability. Reimagine it as a place where people are nudged to deal with these questions positively and for their own good and then leave this place confident.


The GDTW as an ideal framework for a circular economy challenge

“Problems can only be solved if they are fully understood” is a Cradle to Cradle principle. This reflects the design thinking approach practiced in the Global Design Thinking Workshop at the HPI School of Design Thinking (d–school). The first two phases of the design thinking method deal intensively with the entire problem context, such as the area of sustainability and users' perspectives. The aim is to develop a deep understanding from the user’s perspective of the challenges in the circular economy and sustainability issues. In this case, that specifically means: The teams go to the supermarket equipped with pen and paper, accompany consumers while shopping, and interview residents and passers-by in the area around the supermarket. The team brings together the findings and immediately creates the first prototypes.


What should the supermarket of the future look like?

After just one week, the Global Design Thinking Workshop participants presented their first prototypes on March 13, 2024, in the Potsdam Lab in the center of the city and discussed their findings with representatives from Cradle to Cradle. What is important for the project partners is ready-made solutions and surprising insights from interactions with potential users. The Teams discovered, for example, that older people are more interested in health and are open to direct digital communication of related information when shopping. The realization that consumers primarily associate food sustainability with the place of production led to functions in the prototypes that made local food producers more tangible for consumers.
The six teams showed our project partner, Cradle to Cradle, a whole bouquet of solutions and new approaches, which the C2C-Team then took home with extensive documentation for further development.


From this perspective, we write:

The new direction of our academic programs focuses on pressing topics such as the path towards greater sustainability, open innovation architectures in education, digitalization in healthcare and crisis communication, and much more. Students develop human-centered solutions using the design thinking method within these subject areas. Our goal is to expand design thinking with tools and methods that enable these complex problems to be addressed with a view to a positive, livable future. We cooperate within global networks like the Global Design Thinking Alliance (GDTA).