Case Study: Interface
For 21 years Interface operated instinctively under the traditional industrial model of ‘take-make-waste’, being heavily reliant on fossil fuels for their products, transportation and manufacturing. The turning point came in 1994 when a series of events led Ray Anderson to realize how little attention was being paid to the future, and the leading role the company could play in carving a new path, aiming towards a more sustainable industrial model and society. Interface wanted to show that if even a company that depends extensively on oil can transform itself, then any business can do it and no one will have an excuse not to do it.
It is clear Interface has successfully dispelled the myth that focusing on sustainability negatively affects the bottom line. If anything they have proven exactly the opposite. Since 1996 to 2013, Interface has reduced the manufacturing waste it sends to landfill by 84 %. About 49 % of all raw materials are now either recycled or bio-based, including 36 % of yarn and 51 % of carpet backing. Savings from avoided waste costs amounted to $450 million. In terms of energy, total energy use at the global factories has been reduced by 39 % per unit. Also, 36 % of energy consumed globally is from 100 % renewable sources (with 7 out of 9 facilities operating with 100 % renewable energy), and actual greenhouse gas emissions have been reduced by 41 %.
Climbing the 7 fronts of Mount Sustainability to reach Mission Zero
Close the loop
ReEntry 2.0™, which separates the fibres and backings of old carpet tiles. The fibre is then recycled into new threads, which are combined with recycled yarn from discarded fishnets, to produce Biosfera™, a carpet with 100% recycled yarn
The Natural Step
Interface became the first US Company to adopt The Natural Step (TNS) framework and methodologies. Under the guidance of The Natural Step and other sustainability visionaries, a new vision for Interface was crafted – Mission Zero™; to eliminate any negative impact Interface has on the environment by 2020, showing it’s possible to create a better world, and being restorative by the power of our influence.
Interface included aspects from TNS’s Framework for Strategic Sustainable Development in the company’s strategic planning process and all employee training. Gradually the FSSD became a vital and visible part in the company’s operations and culture, and it was consistently positioned as providing the most rigorous definition of sustainability.
- Reduction in landfill manufacturing waste 84%
- Total recycled or bio-based raw materials 49%
- Reduction in greenhouse gas emission 41%
- Reduction in total energy use at global factories 36%
Shaping the FutureInterface’s business model as captured by Mission Zero has given it the edge over its competitors, and the company has been setting the pace for others by being the first to publish corporate sustainability reports, receiving LEED and ISO14001 certifications, and accrediting all their products with Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs). Ray Anderson received a host of sustainability related accolades throughout his lifetime, as have other individuals at Interface and several of its products. The company itself was named by Fortune as one of the “Most Admired Companies in America”, and in the UK the company was recently awarded a second Queen’s Award for Sustainable Development. In addition, in 2012 the company was recognized as ‘Most Sustainable Large Corporate’ in the world by the International Green Awards initiative.