From Open Sustainability
Wikisourcing Sustainable Enterprises Profile Form
Name: Interface, Inc
Size: local, national, global
Headquarters location: Atlanta, Georgia, USA
Industry: Carpet manufacturer
Related links to articles about this enterprise's work:
Sustainability Initiative that Caught your Attention
i. What did this initiative set out to accomplish, or what problem was it addressing (if you know)?
The company created a sustainability program called "Mission Zero" that is targeted to eliminate all negative environmental impacts by 2020.
Interface has been one of the leading manufacturers of modular carpets since it was founded in 1973.
In the 1990’s, managers began to notice a growing customer concern over the environmental impact of the company’s products, services, and operations. After reading Paul Hawken’s The Ecology of Commerce, Ray Anderson, Founder and CEO at the time, explains that he experienced a radical shift in his paradigm of business sustainability. He began to expand the company’s sustainability strategy to include environmental issues, as opposed to being solely motivated by sustaining the company's financial performance.
The company uses the analogy of climbing mountain to explore the challenge of becoming sustainable. As explained on their website, the company divides this “climb” into the “7 Fronts of Mount Sustainability,” including:
1. Eliminate waste
2. Benign Emissions
3. Renewable Energy
4. Closing the loop
5. Resource-efficient transportation
6. Sensitizing stakeholders
7. Redesign commerce
Interface has also created a series of models that illustrate how conventional businesses operate and how Interface plans to achieve their sustainability strategy.
ii. What outcomes/results did it achieve, against what measurable standard or target or goal (if you know)?
As the company's website explains, “Since its founding, Interface has grown into a billion-dollar corporation, named by Fortune as one of the 'Most Admired Companies in America' and the '100 Best Companies to Work For.' It has diversified and globalized its businesses, with sales in 110 countries and manufacturing facilities on four continents and is now the world’s leading producer of soft-surfaced modular floor coverings.”
Founder Ray Anderson explains in an interview:
“We're quite a way up the mountain on all fronts. From our 1996 baseline, we have reduced waste by about 52%. That has generated in real dollars, $372 million of cost avoidance. We have reduced our net greenhouse gases in absolute tonnage by 88%. Water usage worldwide in our company is down 79%. We have been able to close 47% of our smokestacks with process changes and 81% of our effluent pipes. We have recaptured used product at the end of its first life to the tune of 127 million pounds of stuff that we have brought back to our factories to close the loop on material flow. Six of our 11 factories are now run on 100% renewable electricity.”
There are a number of initiatives that the company has spearheaded to reach the sustainability goals. These include the use of bio-based raw materials, biomimicry in design, a carbon neutral strategy, employee engagement, utilizing renewable energy, conducting life cycle assessments of products, eliminating waste, closing the consumption loop of raw materials, and greening the supply chain. In addition, the company has created a foundation that awards environmental organizations and educational programs with grants; the company also initiates partnerships with community organizations to integrate sustainability into society. Interface has hired some of the top sustainability thought-leaders to advise on the development of the sustainability strategy.
With the new vision for environmental sustainability came new innovative ways of understanding company culture. The environmental strategy also included new management strategies that would allow the company to be more open to innovation and flexible to changing customer demands. As the website explains, “Interface’s unique culture has been extensively acknowledged with workplace awards. Bentley Prince Street (a subsidiary of Interface) has been ranked as one of the 'Best Places to Work in Los Angeles' by the Los Angeles Business Journal and Interface has been listed among Fortune magazine’s 'Best Places to Work.' The company regularly surveys employee associates for feedback on how to improve organizational performance and company culture.
iii. Regardless of the results, how was the initiative received inside/outside the organization?
Interface is considered an innovative industry leader by many business leaders and media sources, the company executives are reguarly booked on speaking tours, and the company is hailed for displaying some of the best examples of corporate sustainability practices.
Why? What impresses you about this enterprise's sustainability initiative?
Interface’s goals to have zero negative environmental impacts by 2020 is incredibly ambitious and unmatched by other industrial enterprises. As it is becoming common for many companies to make aspiring claims about their sustainability strategy, Interface is actually on schedule as it is halfway towards its 2020 goal.
Ray Anderson admits that the challenge of sustainability is great; in response to an interviewer's inquiry about Interface's level of sustainability, Anderson responded, “There's not a sustainable company or sustainable product anywhere on earth yet, but we're working on it and making terrific progress.”
At what stage is this enterprise on the Sustainable Innovation Roadmap?
1. Viewing Compliance as Opportunity - 5
2. Making Value Chains Sustainable - 5
3. Designing Sustainable Products and Services - 5
4. Developing New Business Models - 5
5. Creating Next Practice Platforms - 5
Please indicate stage by number 1-5 (5 being the highest):
Summarize this Sustainable Enterprise using 3 Tags
What are 3 key words (or short phrases) to summarize the essentials of your Sustainable Enterprise Profile?:
i. Global leaders
ii. Environmentally neutral goal
iii. Climate neutral goal
If you had a chance to sit down with this enterprise's senior management what topics would you raise? Please limit to 3:
In writing your profile what measures did you use for judging a sustainable enterprise?
The five forms of capital that are outlined by Forum for the Future, including natural capital, human capital, social capital, manufactured capital, and financial capital. I also used the Genuine Progress Indicator as a measure for evaluating the company’s success.
What underlying principles guide this enterprise in their sustainability initiatives?
A holistic perspective of managing the inputs of natural resources and outputs of waste. They recognize that business does not exist in a bubble independent of the natural environment. The company takes into account that the value and sustainability of products are completely dependent upon the supply of natural resources from which they are derived and that human well-being is dependent upon the health of the ecosystem.
About the Profile Contributor
Karl R. Smerecnik