Ethical Performance
inside intelligence for responsible business


Anderson says mission is 60% accomplished

November 2009

The flooring company Interface is more than halfway to its goal of becoming fully sustainable, claims its founder Ray Anderson.

Anderson, who recently celebrated the 15th anniversary of his groundbreaking commitment to a Mission Zero of eliminating all the company’s environmental impacts by 2020, says: ‘We’re 60 per cent of the way to the top of that mountain and about 60 per cent of the timeline has elapsed. Mission Zero, as impossible as it seemed, is now within sight. The technologies are there and we can see how it can happen.’

Anderson, who makes his declaration in a web video to mark the anniversary, changed the direction of his company after reading Paul Hawken’s book The ecology of commerce. He has since become one of the highest profile business advocates of corporate social responsibility.

Anderson said he believed the key to Interface’s current progress has been universal ‘buy-in’ from the company’s staff.
He said: ‘I do believe they were stunned by what I had to say [15 years ago], but I have spoken to our people about this at every opportunity – at plant meetings and sales meetings – and it’s been about winning one mind at a time.

‘Three thousand people have now bought into the vision and internalize it, not just in their own way of thinking but in carrying it home and into the community as well. That is really gratifying.’

Anderson said the progress made so far had helped the company financially, rather than being a burden.

‘The business case for sustainability has emerged very clearly,’ he said. ‘Our costs are down, not up, and that exposes the false choice between the environment and the economy. Our products are better than ever, and we also have the goodwill of the marketplace. There’s no amount of slick advertizing, at any cost, that would have created the goodwill that this effort has created. This is a better way to make a bigger and more legitimate profit.’

Interface says its waste reduction programme alone has generated $405million (£248m) in savings so far, while energy efficiency programmes have cut greenhouse gas emissions on an absolute basis by 67 per cent since 1996. In Europe Interface uses only renewable electricity.

Mission Zero committed Interface, which makes carpet tiles for homes, offices and shops, to becoming ‘a fully sustainable company, leaving a zero carbon footprint by 2020’, without offsetting.
It has taken a technology-driven approach to reducing its impact, including ‘bio-metric’ design of flooring products that mimic nature and the use of Nasa technology to eliminate manufacturing waste.

One offshoot of Mission Zero is that Interface now offers consultancy services, in partnership with the UK’s Ashridge business school, to companies wishing to learn from its experiences.

Interface | Global | Sustainability

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