Monday 31st August 2009 marks 15 years since Ray Anderson, founder and chairman of Interface Inc., the global modular flooring specialist, set his company on the path to becoming the world’s first sustainable business by 2020. Now defined as Mission Zero, the company’s drive to achieve a zero environmental footprint plays a central role in the organisation’s ethos and culture and has set Interface on a course that has characterised its development ever since.
In 1994, after reading Paul Hawken’s ‘The Ecology of Commerce’, Anderson had an epiphany or a ‘spear in the chest’ as he often refers to it and realised that his company’s “take, make, waste” cycle of manufacturing products was environmentally and fundamentally flawed. Anderson and Interface subsequently set out on a “mid-course correction,” changing the company’s business model to consider and reduce the environmental impact of every creative, manufacturing and building decision made and pioneering the sustainability movement for the industrial world.
Of the milestone anniversary, Lindsey Parnell, CEO and President of InterfaceFLOR, the modular flooring division of Interface Inc. said, “15 years ago Interface was one of the first companies to publicly commit to sustainability and set a real target of where we wanted the company to be in the future. Mission Zero continues to underpin every dimension of our company, from process, product and profits to people and place. I firmly believe that this holistic approach is what has allowed us to make the progress we have to date. We still have some way to go in achieving our 2020 goal; and to get there we will continue to evaluate, adapt and innovate our products, services and processes.”
Interface is now over halfway in completing Mission Zero and has made significant progress towards reaching its 2020 goal:
A waste reduction programme has allowed Interface to generate over $405 million in avoided costs;
Energy efficiency programmes have resulted in a 67% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions on an absolute basis since 1996;
A commitment to renewable energy and further changes to the production process have allowed for 100% use of renewable electricity in the company’s manufacturing processes throughout Europe.
The company also continues to push the boundaries of sustainable manufacturing, having recently developed and introduced two leading-edge technologies in its facilities in Europe to significantly reduce manufacturing waste. A bespoke ultrasonic cutting machine, which is based on NASA technology, will double output and enable Interface to eliminate several hundred tonnes of waste per year from the manufacturing process. The company has also pioneered Cool Green™, a system which allows manufacturing and carpet waste to be recycled back into its products for the first time, which not only reduces the material sent to landfill but also heralds a new dimension of ‘green’ manufacturing for the company in Europe.
Interface has won numerous design and innovation awards for its market-leading modular floor covering products. In addition, it has also become widely recognised as a pioneer in sustainable manufacturing and business practices, and is currently ranked number 1 in Globescan’s survey of sustainability experts worldwide.
Interface is committed to becoming a fully sustainable company, leaving zero carbon footprint by 2020.
Mission Zero is Interface’s promise to eliminate any negative impact the company may have on the environment by considering the impact of every creative, manufacturing and building decision it makes.
Interface addresses sustainability on seven fronts. These involve eliminating waste and harmful emissions; maximising use of renewable energy; recycling waste materials and reusing products; developing resource efficient transportation methods; creating a culture that integrates the principles of sustainability into working lives; and creating new models for businesses. Encouraging other companies to follow its lead in resource friendly manufacturing policies and processes is also a central part of Interface’s environmental mission.