Magic carpets – CSR at Interface

14 Feb

I’m slightly wary about talking about carpet tile manufacturers Interface, as they’re so frequently cited in CSR literature (they took away the ‘Most Sustainable Large Organisation‘ and the Grand Prix prize at the International Green Awards 2012). But seeing as I’m currently living in the Alps I couldn’t resist sharing their goal of scaling Mount Sustainability.

I was struck by Interface’s story not only because they are a company who have really put sustainability at the very heart of their business, but because they did so quite suddenly after 21 years in business. It started in 1994, when founder Ray Anderson had an epiphany. As a result the company underwent an entire business model change, with the aim of becoming the first fully sustainable organisation. This goal is called Mission Zero, and they’re looking to operate with zero negative impact by 2020. How much is enough is an important question for CSR teams but at Interface their are no half measures, they’re taking this as far as it will go. They don’t just want to reduce their waste, but create a closed-loop system that eliminates waste entirely.

Recognising that this will be no small feat, Interface have christened their challenge ‘Mount Sustainability’, which is then broken down into seven fronts to be scaled.

Getting everyone on board
As I said in my last post, an inspired chief executive is one of the most valuable assets any CSR programme could have, but it doesn’t guarantee success. At Interface they’ve obviously managed to embed these values throughout the company culture, so that sustainability is at the heart of every decision they make. There are incentives for employees to contribute and accountability throughout their management system – with personal performance objectives linked to Mission Zero. Development opportunities include the FastForward to 2020 training opportunities, to help everyone get on board.

Interface are well on their way to achieving their goal, and there are all sorts of impressive environmental statistics to browse through on their website. There’s also a long list of external recognition, and not just from awards bodies. I want to avoid too much jargon and/or acronyms in this blog, but I’m going to make an exception to mention their EPD (Environmental Product Declaration) based on their LCA (life cycle analysis), developed by GUT (Gemeinschaft Umweltfreundlicher Teppichboden) and verified by the IBU (Institute for Built Environment) – in for a penny, in for a pound! Interface have worked in partnership with GUT to develop industry guidelines, but are saved from a conflict of interest by IBU, who provide independent verification. As for LCA, they have a really useful guide to the process which isn’t just for those in the carpet industry.

Which brings me on nicely to my final note, that Interface are keen on sharing their approach – and really against organisations that claim to be green but aren’t (to the point of sounding almost aggresive – or perhaps that’s just me?). Either way, the information is still useful, check out their Just The Facts download and there’s more on their Cut The Fluff blog. And if you want to hear about everything from the horse’s mouth, you can apply to attend the 2degrees webinar at 10am (GMT) this Friday. Ramon Arratia, Sustainability Director at Interface, will be talking to 2degrees’ editor, Tom Idle.


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