Green Business Awards 2010: Overall environmental management

Winner - InterfaceFLOR

Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013

Hundreds of organisations have adopted environmentally friendly strategies and programmes in recent years, but when it comes to measuring ambition few if any could compete with flooring manufacturer InterfaceFLOR.

In 1994, inspired by a philosophy called the Natural Step, the company's chairman, Ray Anderson, launched a bold mission: to become the first company anywhere to be fully sustainable, with no negative impacts on the environment from its people, process or products. The goal became known as Mission Zero, and the timescale for achieving it was set at 2020.

Since then, Mission Zero has morphed from a vision into a transformation programme that reaches into every corner of the company's business and operations. It influences every business, manufacturing and design decision that Interface makes and is embedded in the company's approach to people, processes, products and profit. Mission Zero has led Interface to change its business model to make reducing environmental impacts a key driver not just in making investment decisions, but also in working with its supply chain.

The Mission Zero initiative has seven fronts, which range from eliminating waste and using wholly renewable energy to maximising recycling and using resource-efficient transport. More unusually, Interface rewards its people for saving energy rather than increasing output.

The programme is systematic in its nature; a quarterly EcoMetrics report measures progress on vectors such as waste reduction, carbon emissions, water and energy usage; while a Sociometrics report measures environmental awareness, education, stakeholder engagement and outreach.

Interface's people are at the centre of all this activity, with every single one expected to participate. Employees are trained to relate sustainability to every process and, as a result, they are the ones that come up with the solutions. In waste reduction, for example, some of the measures introduced include fitting sensors on production lines to detect seams and eliminate creasing; fine tuning machinery to deliver the correct amount of backing compounds; and installing sensors to reduce water consumption.

Interface has introduced its own RePrice collection of flooring with a high recycled content and a ReEntry scheme to collect carpets at the end of their life and either recycle or downcycle them. Some of the more spectacular results achieved include an 80% reduction in landfill waste since 1996, an 80% reduction in water use in manufacturing and a total energy reduction of 43% over the same period - all measured per unit of production. The company is intent on creating a model for others to follow and, beyond 2020, on becoming a restorative organisation - giving more to the environment than it takes away.



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