Green Business Awards 2008: Best Overall Environmental Performance - Winner InterfaceFlor

Modular flooring company InterfaceFlor, a division of US carpeting multinational Interface, is widely recognised as one of the world's greenest firms.

Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013

The company launched a Mission Zero programme in the mid-1990s, aiming to become the first genuinely sustainable business by 2020. Latest monitoring results show that since 1996, InterfaceFlor has achieved reductions of 82% in net greenhouse gas emissions and 75% in manufacturing waste going to landfill, and a 45% cut in energy consumption per unit of product. Green improvements have generated cumulative cost savings worth £218m.

InterfaceFlor's Mission Zero initiative was conceived in the mid-90s by the firm's founder and chairman Ray Anderson. From that point, it began to shift its operations from a 'take, make and waste' approach to a more natural or cyclical system of material and resource flows. Its aim is to become a genuinely sustainable business by 2020.

Mission Zero is the centrepiece of an overall sustainability plan. Goals include: eliminating waste and harmful emissions; maximising use of renewable energy; recycling waste materials; re-using products; and developing resource-efficient transport systems.

By 2007, InterfaceFlor had achieved a 75% cut in water usage, and 27% of its global energy consumption came from renewables, while in Europe 100% of its electricity for manufacturing came from renewables.

Overall, InterfaceFlor aims to create a culture that integrates the principles of sustainability into working lives and to create new models for business.

The seven-pronged Mission Zero programme is driven by a sustainability leadership council, whose responsibility is to ensure that the company meets its environmental targets. Each strategy has a chair and a support team leading sustainability programmes so that the aims are integrated into all parts of the business.

Staff have performance-related packages based on measurable reductions in environmental impacts. In this way, all InterfaceFlor's employees play an active role in the company's journey to sustainability.

The firm employs 100 'sustainability ambassadors', each of whom has completed a training course in sustainability, plus a European sustainability director and supporting staff.

InterfaceFlor runs numerous programmes in support of Mission Zero. One is Cool Carpet, a scheme enabling consumers to purchase a 'climate-neutral' product by paying a small premium on the purchase price to offset its lifecycle emissions. To date, the company has sold 3.6 million square metres of Cool Carpet across Europe, purchasing more than 69,000 tonnes of carbon offset credits. These are used to fund programmes such as the installation of treadle pumps in India and the restoration of Uganda's rainforest.

Then there's the Evergreen carpet-leasing system by which, for a monthly leasing charge, InterfaceFlor supplies, installs, maintains and replaces its modular flooring products for the customer. This extends the overall life of the installation and lets the firm reclaim a product at the end of its useful life for repurposing or recycling.

Every investment InterfaceFlor makes is assessed on how it will enable the company to minimise environmental impact. For instance, it has spent £3.5m in its two UK facilities on machinery, allowing every by-product of manufacture to be recycled and re-used later in production.

InterfaceFlor employs about 1,000 people in Europe, 300 of them in the UK. Its UK manufacturing facilities are at Craigavon, Northern Ireland and Shelf, West Yorkshire.

Shortlisted - EC&O Venues p25; JC Atkinson & Son p26; Kimberley-Clark Europe p26; Radisson SAS Hotel, Edinburgh p27; Stralfors p27

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