Last Saturday’s post, the second written about Interface Inc.’s steps toward becoming a sustainable company, highlighted InterfaceRAISE. This is the third post detailing Interface’s sustainability measures focuses on lifecycle assessments and further details the path that Interface has blazed.
One of Interface’s main goals is to become a regenerative business. In order to do so, they derive inspiration from sustainable design found in nature. “Nature has some fundamental operating principles: it runs on sunlight and other renewable energy sources, it fits form to function, it recycles everything and it is extremely efficient — never creating excess or wasting — and, finally, it rewards cooperation.” As Interface transitioned into a company that behaves more like nature, the first step was to run their company on renewable energy, eliminating waste, and recycling and reusing materials. A significant part of the move involved their suppliers, customers, investors, and communities. Interface made cooperation with these stakeholders a key to their success.
Several of the company’s diagrams represent the relationship between the biosphere – natural ecosystems – and businesses. The one seen in this post demonstrates the lifecycle of their products. To accomplish the task of closing the loop (from the take-make-waste paradigm), Interface redesigned processes and products and began using bio-based materials. In addition, they began to “recycle synthetic materials, to convert waste into valuable raw materials, and to keep organic materials uncontaminated so they may be returned to their natural systems.” A rather intricate diagram on their website (seen here, titled The Next Industrial Revolution: Model for the Prototypical Company of the 21st Century), depicts how companies can coexist with nature while growing their business.
Founder and CEO Ray Anderson’s decade-old book titled Mid-Course Correction provides “an overview of how companies can move from a typical 20th century company to a sustainable business.” As a result of work that Interface has done, Anderson has become a sought after speaker for Fortune 500 companies. A few months ago he released a new book, Confessions of a Radical Industrialist, which further details his company’s transformation and its climb up what Anderson refers to as Mount Sustainability.
Climbing Mount Sustainability consists of seven fronts identified below, with lifecycle analysis representing the halfway point. Anderson is quoted as saying “the journey to a fully sustainable Interface would be like summiting ‘a mountain higher than Everest.’”
- Eliminate Waste
- Benign Emissions
- Renewable Energy
- Closing the Loop
- Resource-efficient transportation
- Sensitizing Stakeholders
- Redesign Commerce
The point Interface makes is that “the most difficult step on the climb is first admitting that the mountain exists.” Companies must come to this realization if they are to seriously address sustainability.
- Eric Wilson
[image source: Interface]