Published 4 years ago.
About a 5 minute read.
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Why are lessons learned by a flooring company relevant? Many of the challenges we had to solve are the same that companies are struggling with as they pursue sustainability. Our accomplishments are significant because they show it is possible to transform a business and put sustainability at the core.
This year, Interface
celebrated a significant milestone in our sustainability journey. It’s been 25
years since our founder, Ray
challenged our company to become a sustainable enterprise with a goal to have
zero negative impact on the environment. Mission
made us a pioneer, learning how to define and implement sustainability at a time
when few companies were pursuing it.
This milestone gave us an opportunity to reflect on our progress and our
accomplishments, and we did two important things — we declared success on our
Mission Zero; and we set a new mission, embracing and launching Climate Take
By focusing on Mission Zero, we significantly reduced the impacts of our company
and transformed our products. We helped change our supply chain; and we inspired
others along the way to implement more sustainable business practices, creating
ripple effects that helped us extend Mission Zero far beyond our original
intentions. Based on our 25 years of effort and accomplishments, we published
our Lessons for the
report to provide a roadmap for others working to implement sustainability in
After Ray Anderson’s famous spear-in-the-chest moment in 1994, we created
aggressive sustainability targets. We worked quickly to develop a plan to reduce
our business’s impact on the environment. We focused on three key areas of the
business: our factories, our products and our raw materials. Over
the last 25 years, we’ve made remarkable progress, with results including:
a 92 percent reduction of waste to landfill across our global factory
an 89 percent water use reduction in factories globally;
and a shift to 89 percent of our global energy coming from renewable
sources, with 100 percent of our electricity globally covered by renewable
We’ve also decarbonized our business and our products, achieving a 96 percent
reduction in carbon emissions globally and a 69 percent reduction in the carbon
footprint of our carpet tile products. In January 2019, we celebrated a
significant accomplishment: Every flooring product that we sell — carpet tile,
LVT, rubber tile and sheets — became carbon
across the full lifecycle of the products.
Our Lessons for the Future report covers nine lessons we’ve learned as we’ve
transformed the business to achieve Mission Zero. These include shooting for
the moon — setting bold, uncomfortable goals for your business and thinking
beyond incremental targets; being transparent — and talking about challenges
and successes; and taking a circular approach — creating a circular system
for materials and products to become a more sustainable company.
Why are lessons learned by a flooring company relevant? Many of the challenges
we had to solve at Interface are the same challenges that companies are
struggling with as they pursue sustainability. The need to set the right
ambition level for sustainability targets and the need to engage employees at
all levels are universal challenges. Our accomplishments are significant because
they show it is possible to transform a business and put sustainability at the
core. While every lesson might not apply to every organization, some key tenets
must be addressed for any successful sustainability strategy. Lastly, we hope we
can shorten the learning curve of other organizations just getting started on
their own sustainability efforts.
But along this journey to zero, we have done much more than reduce our own
environmental footprint. Through sharing our progress and mentoring
we have enabled them to create change within their businesses. We’ve sought to
measure and share these ripple effects using the Handprint
In Lessons for The Future, we measured two important projects on raw materials
and renewable energy, the ripple effects of which created positive impacts well
outside of our business.
As sustainability moves away from its historical definition of reducing the
negative impacts of one business or its supply chain and into a new era focused
on creating positive
learning how to influence others will become critical. Understanding how to
design strategies that not only positively impact a company, but can scale to
engage other businesses and create impacts well beyond one company or one
industry, will help us solve some of the world’s biggest challenges.
The most important lesson we’ve learned on our zero mission to zero is to
raise the bar. When confronted with the potential end to our sustainability
journey, we embraced the next step: We set our sights even higher with our new
mission, Climate Take Back — which aims not just to transform our business, but
also create a movement to reverse global warming. We are working to develop
processes and products that create a positive impact on the world, with a goal
to become a carbon-negative enterprise by 2040. But importantly, we’re also
making investments to fund transformation within our built environment space,
enabling our customers to act to reduce carbon — by funding the creation of
open-source tools, such as the Embodied Carbon in Construction Calculator
(EC3), that allow for comparisons of the carbon footprint of products; and
through collaborative partnerships such as
Published Dec 5, 2019 10am EST / 7am PST / 3pm GMT / 4pm CET
As Chief Sustainability Officer, Erin gives voice to Interface’s conscience, ensuring that strategy and goals are in sync with its aggressive sustainability vision established more than 20 years ago. Today, Interface has evolved its thinking to go beyond doing less harm to creating positive impacts, not just for Interface and the flooring industry, but for the world at large.