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The Environmental Footprint Of Carpet Tile

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Commissioned by Interface to celebrate our Mission Zero anniversary, John Elkington has written a case study titled – ‘Interface: The untold story of Mission Zero in Europe’, which charts our journey over the past 20 years highlighting the systems changes we have brought into the core of our business. Here is an excerpt that looks at the footprint of carpet tile. You can download the full study here.

“Interestingly, in a pattern seen with many other industrial products, LCA research reveals that the environmental footprint of carpeting is disproportionately concentrated at the point where basic raw materials are extracted and processed. It is estimated that 68% of the total impact is created at the raw materials stage, with 17% produced during the stages that Interface has direct control over (with manufacturing accounting for 9%, transportation for 8%), a further 8% during use and maintenance, and 7% at the end of the carpet’s life, critically including disposal.

When it comes to the environmental impact of Interface products, the image below illustrates how particular materials have significantly greater footprints than others. The nylon yarn that forms the walkable surface of a carpet turns out to have around four times more impact than the backing material, according to Connie Hensler, Interface’s Global LCA Director. The analysis assumes a product life of 10 years, although many factors can impact that life expectancy. Ultimately, the design, use and final fate of carpeting products reflects the prevailing market paradigm, a subject we turn to next.

At the waste disposal end, to give some sense of the rate of carpet recycling, in the U.K. 85,000 tonnes of carpet were diverted from landfill in 2012. This represented an increase in diversion from 16.5% in 2011 to 21.4% in 2012. Of this volume, 36,000 tonnes were recycled or reused, with 49,000 tonnes used for energy recovery. Clearly, again, there is an enormous gap still to be bridged. More positively, in California, where an estimated 400 million pounds of carpet are disposed of each year in the State’s landfills alone it recently passed a law to recycle 75% of waste by 2020. And as of July 1, 2011, California law AB2398 requires a 5-cent “carpet stewardship assessment” on every square yard of carpet sold. The pressure may be building slowly, but the sense at Interface is that it is all headed broadly in the same direction, of tightening controls.”

Carpe Tile Footprint


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CLG position on EU Climate & Energy Package #EU2030

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EU Climate and Energy packageThe Prince of Wales Corporate Leaders Group (CLG), of which we are a member, released the following press statement on Friday clearly defining our position on the EU Climate and Energy Package #EU2030:

EU Climate and Energy package is a major step forward but weak on renewables and energy efficiency.

European Council has just agreed a new climate and energy deal that sets a binding domestic Greenhouse Gas Emissions (GHG) target of “at least” 40% but which failed to agree ambitious targets for the share of energy from renewable sources and for energy efficiency. The influential European Prince of Wales’s Corporate Leaders Group representing major EU businesses welcomes today’s agreement on the EU Energy and Climate package as a ‘major step forward’.

Philippe Joubert, Chair of The Prince of Wales’s Corporate Leaders Group said:

“In agreeing this framework for emissions reductions, European Leaders have signalled to the rest of the world a clear ambition to achieve a robust international climate agreement in 2015. A united
Europe committed to deliver at least 40% of reduction of greenhouse gas emissions can boost the momentum toward an agreement in international climate negotiations in Paris, speaking louder at the table and capitalising on its leadership.”

“However, with weak targets for renewables and energy efficiency and a low carbon price the EU must act urgently to unlock investment and spur the innovation needed to deliver its ambitions. In this respect we welcome the agreement to reform the EU emissions trading system and address the benefits of carbon capture and storage technology. ”

To deliver on the greenhouse gas emissions target the EU will now also need to put in place clear governance rules, legislation and standards to enhance the uptake of low carbon technologies and energy efficiency, especially in transport and buildings.

Earlier this week the group of 25 EU companies wrote an open letter to EU President Herman Van Rompuy and EU leaders calling for ambitious, binding targets on domestic greenhouse gas emission reductions of at least (40%), with a share of energy from renewable sources (30%) and energy efficiency (30%), which it said would support EU jobs and competitiveness.

CISL CLG EU2030 Position

More on CISL here.

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Technology coupled with clever product standards policy is the answer

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SitraThis week I’m in Finland at a Chief Technology Officer’s forum organized by SITRA, the Finnish Innovation Fund.

After talking to some CTOs at these very innovative companies, you realise that technology has most of the answers. Today I’m very optimistic about the task ahead, a feeling I never get when coming out of conferences full of sustainability wonks or brand/marketing folks talking empty stuff…

Some lessons…

* The main learning was confirming that technology, supported by strong product performance standards, will be a key part of the fight against climate change.

* I saw a presentation from KONE, an elevator maker, who says their new volume elevator models launched in 2012 consume 70% less energy in Europe, 60–75% less in Asia and 40% less in the US compared to the typical KONE elevator configuration from 2008. To put that in perspective, 40% of global energy is due to buildings and between 2% to 10% is related to elevator and mechanical stairs. Imagine if we came up with legislation similar to the car industry eg. Minimum energy performance, more taxes for elevators that consume more energy, more taxes for building that consume more energy…

* I also saw a new company called Eniram who has pioneered a system to reduce fuel consumption in cargo ships by collecting intelligent data to monitor vessel performance and then suggest a number of optimization actions such as going at the optimum speed, when the hull should be cleaned or using optimizing the engine. The global emissions of shipping are double the ones from aviation. $20m is the annual cost of fuel per year per cargo vessel. In this case, costs savings are already a great incentive and this technology is expanding. But if strong cargo vessel efficiency standards or taxation of fuel were more stringent, then the technology would be adopted immediately.

* Another interesting company is ST1 - a petrol retailer that is investing heavily in bioethanol from waste sources such as out-of-date bread, organic waste or food containing starch and sugar. Their next big project is making ethanol from saw dust. Again, these innovations have a strong business case but the reason why there are successful is due to mandatory blending of ethanol with gasoline. Again, a product standard regulation. Their blends high on bio ethanol have a carbon footprint of 80%-90% less than gasoline. Why would that fuel pay the same tax?

* I heard a mining company complaining that they know technologies that could cut the energy in mining by 40% but their customers won’t pay the price difference. Do you think that all these losers working on sustainable marketing would convince this mining company’s clients to self flagellate themselves and pay a premium or will product standards and best available technology regulation have to fix it?

* Another company, Tamturbo produces gearless, durable, high efficient turbo compressors. Around 10-12% of industrial energy consumption is used to make compressed air, so strong energy standards for compressors is key to drive innovation and product performance.

Caverion gave a great presentation - a company that follows a full life cycle business model by designing, building, operating and maintaining buildings that are user-friendly and energy-efficient. They have a contract with the Swedish municipality of Kalmar, Sweden where they have guaranteed, to its town hall customer, savings of €21 million during 20 years of building upgrades. Here again, if we had policy to push local government towards more efficient buildings, these types of projects would not be anecdotes, but daily business.

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EU 2030 Climate & Energy Declaration

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Confronted with an economic downturn, the challenges posed by climate change, fuel import dependency and rising fossil fuel bills, Europe needs to move rapidly towards a sustainable economy based on renewable energy and energy efficiency.
By promoting renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies, we will be able to improve our energy security and reduce carbon emissions, while boosting the economy and creating high quality green jobs. However, these fundamental changes in our society and economy will not happen without dedicated policies.
Europe has made good progress towards its 2020 climate and energy goals. Europe must now set three ambitious, binding targets for 2030 to ensure we continue reaping the benefits. We therefore call on EU leaders to agree an ambitious EU 2030 climate and energy package no later than October 2014.

This package should be based on:
- A binding domestic greenhouse gas reduction target well beyond the proposed 40% reduction compared to 1990;
- A binding renewable energy target of at least 40%;
- A binding energy efficiency target of at least 40%.

Europe must use this opportunity to move towards a more sustainable future.
Actiam, ASN Bank, Eneco Group, Heijmans, IKEA Group, Interface, Philips, Spar Group, Swarovski, Unilever, Zwitserleven.


 “With massive shifts in the energy supply occurring around us, it is critical for Europe to take control of its future and unlock its low-carbon economic potential. What we need is for Europe to step up – to take radical action and drive the market changes we need to transform our economy towards a more sustainable path. To make this shift, binding targets on energy-efficiency and renewable energy aren’t nice to have, they are vital.
The only way to push the boundaries is to set seemingly impossible targets. It takes you away from the ordinary and challenges you to widen the scope and look for alternatives that you didn’t know were possible. Just like we did, when we committed ourselves in 1994 to have zero impact on the environment by 2020. Therefore, we ask the European politicians to take the lead and make clear to the rest of the world: this is the moment to act.”
- Rob Boogaard, CEO Interface EMEA


To add your company support to this statement please contact:
Maurits Hekking,
De Groene Zaak



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620m Africans live without access to electricity

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I recently came across this shocking report about the growing issue of access to electricity in Africa.

More than 620 million sub-Saharan Africans live without access to electricity, more than in any world region and nearly half of the global total, the new IEA Africa Energy Outlook reports. While more than 99% of North Africa’s population has access to electricity, Sub-Saharan Africa is also the only region in the world where the number of people without it is rising.

The rate of access across sub-Saharan Africa rose to 32% in 2012 from 23% in 2000, led by Nigeria, Ethiopia, South Africa, Ghana, Cameroon and Mozambique. But the number of people without electricity rose in 37 countries in the region, as rapid population growth keeps outpacing the many positive efforts to provide access.

The central scenario of Africa Energy Outlook, part of the 2014 World Energy Outlook series, sees nearly one billion people gaining access to electricity by 2040 – but because of population growth, more than half a billion people remain without it.

Africa Energy Electricity

More info, download the report.

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Our Progress Towards Zero Impact

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“True, carpeting is not as sexy as, say, electric cars, Big Data or space travel. But, we were assured, there is plenty of excitement to be had for those who decide to push from the ‘Old’ order to the ‘New’.”

Here is an excerpt from the case study written by John Elkington titled ‘Interface, the untold story of Mission Zero in Europe‘. In this piece he details some of the challenges, and visualises real progress made towards Mission Zero.

Interface Europe - Mission towards zero

“… a critical task has been to find and develop a suitable business case, both for internal and external use.

“The business case is a possible show-stopper,” admitted Ton van Keken, Senior Vice-President for Operations. But the company has often pushed well beyond the business case. Indeed, that has been a key part of the drive that resulted in the three recent zero-based announcements.

Asked why they did this, we were told that the business case took Interface much of the way, but where there were gaps to be bridged, “we did it for Ray.” When we interviewed senior Interface executives, it became clear that they see at least four areas where the business case is now much stronger than it was when Anderson kick-started the process. Rarely have we encountered a company where the ambitions have been set so high and so consistently.

There was no doubting the level of commitment we found. “In all areas of its activity People, Profit, Planet, Product and Process, Interface has seen excellent improvements since embarking on Mission Zero,” said Ton van Keken, Senior Vice-President for Operations. “I’m hoping to continue this trend, so that in 2020 our mission to have no negative impact on the environment will be accomplished.”Over and again, the mood was upbeat. “The word ‘impossible’ is no longer attached to Mission Zero,” said Richard ter Steege, Controller of the European division. But we were also reminded of the gap between where we need to be and where the European carpet industry currently finds itself.

Interface Europe, for example, has the capacity to recycle approximately 600,000 square metres of carpet a year compared with the 10–11 million square meters produced by Interface Europe and the 450 million square meters produced across the region annually. Clearly, there remains a vast gap between the aspiration and the reality. One key to closing that gap will be wider transparency across the sector. “If you’re the only one disclosing,” explained Rob Boogaard, Senior Vice-President, Sales and Marketing, EMEA, “customers don’t have much to compare you with.”

Interface is first to publish Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs), committing in 2010 to publish EPDs for all their products by 2012. Now there are more than 700 EPDs for Germany, with growing number of countries joining in. Luckily, there is a push for European harmonization, so EPDs done in one country are standard and can be used in another country. We have also been developing a standardisation agreement between Europe and the USA.

And what about the longer term vision? “Interface wants to be ‘off-oil’,” explained Rob Boogaard, Senior Vice-President, Sales and Marketing, EMEA. But the key thing to remember across all of this, noted Nigel Stansfield, Vice-President & Chief Innovation Officer, is that breakthrough innovation “is not just ideas. It is something that has to be commercialized, something that has value that the customer is willing to pay for.”

Download the full case study here.

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30 years B.A.U.M. e.V. – Interview with Prof. Dr. Maximilian Gege

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B.A.U.M. stands for the ‘German Environmental Management Association’ and is Europe’s largest economic initiative for the environment. The B.A.U.M. network consists of more than 500 member companies from various sectors of all sizes.

Prof. Dr. Maximilian Gege, co-founder and chairman of the board of B.A.U.M. is a financial expert and an environmental pioneer. For many years he has been at the heart of the economy, ensuring German and European industrial and political leaders integrate sustainability into their thinking and deliver ambitious solutions to environmental issues. He also teaches environmental sciences at the University in Luneburg, Germany.

Annual Conference and Environmental Awards 2014

This year’s annual conference and awards ceremony took place in the impressive facilities of the chamber of commerce in Hamburg, Germany on September the 29th and 30th. The title of the conference was “More than efficiency: Challenges and opportunities for companies, consumers and politics” with top-class speakers from economics, science, media and institutions presenting and debating about future developments.

The conference was special as it was also Prof. Gege’s 70th birthday. We had the pleasure to pass on our birthday wishes when we interviewed him for our Cut the Fluff blog. Below you can find his responses.


Cut the Fluff interview with Prof. Dr. Maximilian Gege, Co-founder and chairman of the board of B.A.U.M. e.V.

Q1. – What is your definition of sustainability in one sentence?

Sustainability creates and maintains the conditions under which humans and nature can exist in productive harmony. It is the fulfilment of the social, economic and other requirements of present and future generations.

Q2. – Who is your sustainability hero and why?

One of the pioneers and outstanding personalities in sustainable business management on a national and international scale is Dr. Michael Otto, current Chairman of the Supervisory Board of the retail and services group, Otto (GmbH & Co. KG). More than 25 years ago he established environmental protection and social responsibility as corporate goals. Rather than just focusing on short-term profits he tried to meet a triple bottom line of economic, environmental and social value creation long before concepts such as ethical consumption and corporate responsibility became buzzwords.

Another outstanding personality is Prof. Dr. Dr. Klaus Töpfer. In his function as Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations he heavily influenced and guided environmental policy formulations on a global scale. During his mandate as the Minister of Environment and Reactor Safety in Germany he introduced ground breaking environmental regulations and laws such as the law on the life-cycle economy and the packaging recycling system “Green dot”. This regulation directly puts into practice what environmental economists have labeled as “marked-based” instruments of environmental policy.

Dr. Michael Otto and Prof. Dr. Dr. Klaus Töpfer have showed decades of commitment and they fought on different levels for the attempt to make “sustainability” mainstream throughout the years. That is why they are my personal sustainability heroes.

Q3. – If you were running a powerful environmental NGO, which issue would be the focus of your first campaign?

I am in the very lucky position to run an environmental organisation and I have the feeling that we have become quite powerful over the past 30 years. Today we comprise of more than 550 members and public awareness towards ecology and sustainability has risen over the years. We have worked on a number of very successful campaigns for a greener economy throughout Europe.

Q4. – What’s the worst sustainability claim you ever heard?

A very famous German tycoon quite recently remarked that green activities could only be realised once economic numbers were in the black. To my astonishment, a great number of highly qualified entrepreneurs have still not understood that the positive economic results they are asking for require a thorough sustainability strategy.

Q5. – What will get us out of this mess? Miraculous technology, tough regulation or self-flagellation?

I would say a mixture of all three. Corporate responsibility is one of the key points here. One has to maintain the balance between economic, environmental and social issues. Sustainable management offers the possibility for new product solutions and business models.

Q6. – If you could approve a law related to sustainability which would be your first?

I think there is something even more important than to enact new laws in environmental legislation, and that is to change the way we think about sustainable society. Changing mind-sets, rather than implementing new laws is the key for sustainable development in the future.

Q7. – “Sustainable brand” – admirable ambition or ad-man spin?

There is still a lot to do. Especially in the field of brand marketing “sustainability” is often used to ease our bad conscience. A sustainable issue is often named a “green” issue and little is left from its original meaning. However, it is an ambition of B.A.U.M. to change something in this sector.

Q8. – What is your message to the Fortune 500 CEO’s?

A sustainability strategy can only be conveyed in a convincing way if a sustainable approach is taken in all fields: This also includes the use of materials in an ecologically sensible way and the reduction of energy use in production processes and product lifecycles. There is also the need for an intelligent office and health management for employees plus a sustainable mobility management, which includes the careful planning of business trips.

Q9. – What is your favorite sustainability website?

There are several sites that I visit frequently like “”, “”, “” and the page of the German Council for Sustainable Development “”.

Q.10 – And… what is your dirty unsustainable secret?

To be honest, a thing that I struggle with…… is that I like to go to Mallorca on holiday… by plane. Even though I know that short airplane trips cause a relatively large environmental footprint I can’t say “no” to being on holiday and relaxing on that beautiful island.

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56 big brands push for strong climate legislation

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We 56 companies, funds and associations representing more than 4.5 million employees across worldwide each acknowledge responsibility for a sustainable economic future for Europe. Timely decisions about the cornerstones of EU’s energy and climate policies beyond 2020 will substantially support confidence for the important investments. We would like to contribute towards a modern, resource-efficient and low carbon growth as a central driver for Europe’s economic recovery and competitiveness agenda, energy security aims, and delivering sustainable growth and job creation for decades to come.

We remain increasingly concerned at the costs, risks and impacts associated with delayed action on climate change on our markets, supply chains, resource costs and upon society as a whole. We therefore urge you to agree at the European Council on 23rd and 24th October 2014, a robust 2030 energy and climate policy framework and energy security strategy that is fully in line with Europe’s long- term climate objectives and that can deliver a global climate change agreement at the 2015 Paris CoP. Planning security is vital for sustainable investments. We further call for an early structural reform of the EU ETS.

3M, Acciona, Águas de Portugal, Aldersgate Group, Alstom, Barilla, BDEW, Bilfinger Power Systems, BWE, Carbon Markets and Investment Association, Carbon Capture and Storage Association, CEZ, Climate Change Capital, Coca-Cola Enterprises, Dansk Energi, Dong Energy, Doosan Power, DSM, Electricité de France, Ecover, Eneco, E.On, Eurogas, EURELECTRIC, EUGINE, EUTurbines, EnBW, Energie Nederland, EnergiNorge, Ferrovial, Fortum, GDF Suez, General Electric, Gorenje Surovina, GSK, Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change, IKEA Group, Interface, International Emissions Trading Association, Kingfisher, Mirova, Novo Nordisk, Novozymes, Philips, Shell, Skanska, SSE, STF, SWM, Tesco, The Climate Group, The Prince of Wales’s Corporate Leaders Group, Unilever, Vattenfall, VELUX Group, VERBUND.

56 companies urge eu on climate


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Interface wins ‘Best Business / NGO Partnership’ Award

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Net-WorksExceptionally proud that Interface has been recognised for our Net-Works initiative in conjunction with the Zoological Society at this year’s Responsible Business Awards.


Nominees for this category included:

* Marks and Spencer and Good World Solutions – Leveraging mobile technology for real-time supply chain transparency
* Shell and the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves
* Woolworths and WWF-SA partnerships: Sustainable business initiative
* Barclays and Care and Plan UK - Banking on Change
* Interface and Zoological Society of London – Net-Works: delivering social, economic and environmental benefits to the Philippines
* Central England Cooperative and Saffron Lane Neighbourhood Council - The Saffron Acres Project
* Starwood Hotels & Resorts and UNICEF – ‘Check Out for Children’
* B&Q and BioRegional and The Sylva Foundation - Good Woods
* Turk Telekom (TT) and Bogazici University GETEM and Assistive Technology and Education Laboratory – Books on the phone
* SM Prime Holdings – Sensory Friendly Movies

The judges were looking to the same criteria as in B2B Partnership. The only difference here was that the partnership should have taken place between a company and other entities (i.e. NGOs, governmental body, charity or other).

Having perhaps, the longest list of nominees, this category was one of the hardest to choose from. Nevertheless, judges selected a partnership between Barclays, Care and Plan UK with their project Banking on Change as highly commended, stating:

“A unique savings rather than credit-led approach that allows increasing individual savings and financial literacy in undeveloped areas.”

The winner was Interface and Zoological Society of London – Net-Works: delivering social, economic and environmental benefits to the Philippines. The judges gave it the highest appraisals:

“It’s a real social business project, economically successful and one that creates a truly sustainable business model.”

More on Net-Works

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