Interface Inc

Zero environmental footprint carpet: industrial sustainability in 5P dimensions

Tuesday 20 January 2009

3 inspired

Why did we choose this company?

Interface Inc is an inspiring example of a big industrial company where the ethics has been given a real, feasible value. The company’s original commitment to be socially and environmentally responsible many years brought Interface into losses. However, these expenses were considered inevitable and company’s principles thanks to consistent implementation finally led Interface to profits. The company represents an ideal model for new era business where ethics comes first and progressively the ways are found how to combine it with profits.

Main facts about the activities of the company

Interface Inc, the largest commercial carpet manufacturer in the world, was founded in the USA by Ray Anderson, after his graduation from the Georgia Institute of Technology as an industrial engineer. The management team of the company is composed of 9 people.

Interface Inc’s mission goes way beyond becoming the first brand in commercial and institutional interiors worldwide. Interface competes in the interior fabrics market. It produces on 4 continents, has 5,000 employees, net sales of $3.7 millions and operating income of $0.4 million .It aims “to be the first company that, by its deeds, shows the entire industrial world what sustainability is in all its 5 P’s dimensions: People, Process, Product, Place and Profits — by 2020 — and in doing so, to become restorative through the power of influence”. The firm holds values such as sustainability, beauty and responsibility; and they are all in agreement with their vision.

Ethical challenges the company is addressing and reasons to trust in it

The benefits of Interface’s activities are obvious and directed to community as a whole and, above all, to nature. It has been extremely concerned with the environment since 1994, when R.Anderson had an epiphany whilst reading “The Ecology of Commerce” from P. Hawken. From that moment on, he directed their procedures toward the purpose of zero environmental footprints. “The seven fronts of Mount Sustainability” were: elimination of waste; benign emissions; use of renewable energy; use of natural and recycled materials; implementation of a resource-efficient transportation; sensitivity hookups (speeches) and commerce redesign.

As a consequence of these accomplishments, Interface suffered losses in the transition period from 1994 to 2002 but after it took advantage of the economies of scale and profits started increasing exponentially year by year. Some key successes factors were: the cumulative savings, a decrease in energy consumption, a water intake reduction most of the product lines, a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and a reduction in the use of petroleum-based materials.

These achievements have allowed Interface to be included in all the socially responsible investment portfolios, to win several awards, to capture employees and customers that felt identified with the company and to convert the whole industry worldwide.

Challenges the company might face in the future and ways to improve

This firm is an unambiguous example of ethical business, its main contribution is all the improvements in sustainable issues, which are consistent with the Maasai proverb that states “the Earth is not a gift from our parents, but a loan from our children”, therefore we should take care of it. However, there is still lot of work ahead. As Interface’s CEO said “Sustainability is like climbing the Everest. It seems you never get to the top”. Every new stage requires more responsibility, and the company needs to be consistent, to put ethics first whichever is the price.

Company’s size (Interface is the biggest carpet manufacturer) allowed it to reach excellent results in CSR and profits. Hopefully, this can become a standard for the big companies in the future. However, for smaller businesses it will be much more difficult to implement this model.

Ideas for future business:

“Not only must we do our best, but we must be the best at everything we do” Dan Hendrix, Interface President and CEO

Start a new discussion

1 Discussion / 1 Message

  • Interface Social Mission and Impact 18 June 2012 at 15:28 , by Vasyl Davydko

    When seeing most of the firms on this website, I had the impression that, in order to be an ethical business, it should not be large. At the same time, the size has an important disadvantage, since for a small firm it is really hard to make an impact on a global scale. But the example of Interface Inc. has showed me that even when a firm is large, it still remain ethical changing my mind about the large firms. It can even be easier form, since, for instance, Interface´s business model requires use of economies of scale that small business cannot do.

    On the other hand, Interface´s story shows how important is to have faith in one´s goal or values. Although Interface had been experiencing many years of operating losses, they have remained strong and they have not lost their values. At the end, they succeeded and the business had become profitable, but their strong faith in what they were doing is exemplary for me.

Location: United States of America

Sector: textile, carpet production

Official website: http://www.interfaceinc.com/

Key figures:

production on 4 continents, 5.000 employees

net sales of $3.7 millions

operating income of $0.4 million.

Nbr. visits: 1919

Nbr. inspires: 3