This website uses cookies to track and improve your visitor experience. These do not hold any personal data. By using the site you accept their use. Learn more.






By | | No Comments

Today I am pleased to share an interview with Dr Christine Lemaitre, CEO of DGNB.

The German Sustainable Building Council (DGNB) was founded in 2007. Ever since more than 470 building projects and urban districts in about 20 countries were awarded with a DGNB certificate in either bronze, silver or gold. The DGNB Certification System assesses quality comprehensively over the entire life cycle of a building in up to 50 sustainability criteria from the quality sections ecology, economy, socio-cultural aspects, technology, process work flows and site. The system is based on voluntarily outperforming the concepts and standards that are commonly applied in the construction industry.




Before Dr Lemaitre she joined DGNB in 2009 as Director System, she was Project Director at Bilfinger Berger Construction. From 2003 to 2007 she worked at the Institute for Lightweight Structures and Conceptual Design (ILEK) at the University of Stuttgart where she obtained her PHD. Dr Lemaitre studied Civil Engineering at the University of Stuttgart and started her professional career in the United States.


Q1. – What is your definition of sustainability in one sentence?
For me, sustainability means acting in a reasonable and restrained manner.

Q2. – Who is your sustainability hero and why?
There are lots of people who are inspiring. I don’t have one particular hero. Basically, anyone who dares to realise something new and innovative which makes a significant contribution towards the creation of a sustainable environment is courageous and deserves recognition.

Q3. – If you were running a powerful environmental NGO, which issue would be the focus of your first campaign?
As Managing Director of the German Sustainable Building Council – DGNB e.V., an NGO which currently has around 1,200 member organisations, the goal is naturally clear: to ensure greater sustainability in the built environment. As this is a multi-faceted topic, we are constantly working to inform the various actors and increase interest in the subject. The integration of the topic of sustainability with a focus on the built environment into company strategies is particularly dear to my heart. In my view, this is where there is great potential for reaching many people and for making a positive contribution.

Q4. – What’s the worst sustainability claim you ever heard?
“But we have always been sustainable”… This is something we unfortunately still hear far too often today. This kind of statement does not really advance the topic, implying as it does that no further effort is required or desired.

Q5. – What will get us out of this mess? Miraculous technology, tough regulation or self-flagellation?
A healthy mix of several factors seems to us to be the most promising approach. Firstly, of course, we have to point out the appropriate technologies and technical solutions which enable sustainable building. But many changes that are needed will not occur without some pressure. That is why, secondly, we are working politically to try to establish the corresponding framework conditions which reward sustainable building but regulate environmental pollution and the wasting of resources. Thirdly, we must also appeal to people’s awareness and self-interest. We must give those prepared to lead the way the feeling of doing the right thing, and convince those who hesitate of the economic, environmental and social benefits of sustainable building.

Q6. – If you could approve a law related to sustainability which would be your first?
The duty to develop a proper understanding of sustainability. Only those who are informed can make the right decisions. As there is no recipe for success in the area of “sustainability”, we are always reliant on new impulses and approaches.

Q7. – “Sustainable brand” – Admirable ambition or ad-man spin?
A laudable aspiration, if it is taken seriously and deeds follow words. Companies must be measured by their actions.
However, “green washing”, that is to say, pure marketing speak instead of actual reform, is a serious issue. Not only does it do damage to the company purporting to be sustainable in the long term. In the worst case, it damages the public perception of the concept of sustainability.

Q8. – What is your message to the Fortune 500 CEOs?
Do something and then do more! These companies in particular have a major responsibility to lead by example and provide impetus to their staff as well as to society at large. Lasting business success is increasingly based on sustainable management. And it can’t be achieved in a single process, but only by a stringent, strategic reorientation. This requires the personal dedication and courage of top management.

Q9. – What is your favourite sustainability website?

Q.10 – And… what is your dirty unsustainable secret?
That is definitely my travel behaviour. I drive far too much and use alternative meeting options, such as video conferencing, far too seldom. That is my own personal improvement objective.

Thank you, Dr Lemaitre for answering our 10 Cut the Fluff questions.

Interface is a founding member of DGNB and has a range of products that can help contribute to DGNB criteria. The leaflet explains how: Interface DGNB Guide

If you would like to find out more about the DGNB certification system, click this link to visit their website.

In this post
, , , , ,

Are the EU Emissions Trading Scheme reforms ambitious enough?

By | | No Comments

stock-marketOn Feb 24th EU MEPs voted to reform the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS). It was a system that did not work because too many allowances were given to carbon polluting sectors. Also, with the price of carbon so low at 8EUR, it had very little chance of gaining any real traction by generating the right kinds of investments.

Early analysis suggests that with the new reforms the carbon price could increase to between 17EUR and 35EUR by 2020. Well, even at 17EUR it’s still simply too low. Another issue I have is why we need to wait until 2018? All this does is give three more years to carbon intensive fat cat businesses. Sandbag also argues that it would create little incentive for gas and coal power incentives to trade ETS allowances in advance.

One silver lining is that thanks to other energy efficiency policies and innovations,  electricity consumption will fall faster than expected.

Read more about The ETS reform vote from Carbon Brief here. An open letter from various leading businesses (CLG) asking for more ambitious goals is here, and Sandbag’s latest report about allowances surplus and the need to fix the ETS now is here.

In this post
, ,

Is Radical Energy efficiency possible?

By | | No Comments

BP Statistical World Energy 2014 by Carbon BriefI was reading this article recently which states that since 2006 energy use in Europe has dropped by 10%, and is now at 90s levels. On one hand this is great news but I can’t help but think that we haven’t tried particularly hard. I’ve seen with my own eyes how we have increased energy efficiency by 54% at Interface Europe since 1996, and I’m constantly amazed that we continue to find quick wins year on year.

Applying product standards is a quick way to save on energy. We could be much more stringent when applying standards across all energy using products from white goods, TVs, servers, cars, etc. We could also start touching on the potential of product design to save embedded carbon. Today there is carpet on the market with 20kgCO2/m2 and carpet for 3kgCO2/m2. Both pay the same tax. So no incentives to sell or buy the better products.

Another way of looking at increasing efficiency is the sector approach. We have come a long way with automotive but the revolution could go much further – Construction is almost a virgin territory. A strong minimum efficiency standard could be enacted Europe-wide measuring KwH/m2 of heating and cooling for new buildings. Embedded carbon could also be regulated because EPDs for all building materials are becoming available. Building renovation has great potential too – According to Renovate Europe, imported gas used by buildings could be reduced by 61% by 2030.

Public sector expenditure is another area for quick wins. For example, we could replace lighting in cities with the super efficient kind. Phillips just announced a program with the Madrid local council to change all city lighting, delivering a 44% energy saving.

Let’s also look at big industry. Today there are technologies that pay back relatively quickly. Here are some of the initiatives that we have applied at Interface: Insulation of hot equipment, air curtains for doors, password-locked thermostats, reuse of cold air and heat, storage space kept at 5C, switched to high efficiency boilers, spot heating instead of heating entire factory halls, installing valves that prevent heat escaping, installing Building Management Systems, reduced cooling to the bare minimum, switched to LEDs, reduced use of compressed air and fixed air leakages regularly. These simple technologies are already available and you could argue are not particularly radical, but our combined efforts certainly will be.

In this post

Net-Works Awards – #Interface

By | | No Comments

Net-WorksIt’s sometimes feels a little strange to blow your own trumpet! but I have to say I’m exceptionally proud to be with Interface and to have won these awards for our Net-Works initiative. The teams involved work exceptionally hard and it’s important that their work is recognised – well done all.

Social Enterprise Transformation Award (The Netherlands)

Net-Works was integral in securing the Social Enterprise Transformation Award in the Netherlands. We received recognition for our long-term efforts as well as our ambassadorship and the real partnerships we have established.

KYOCERA Environmental Prize (Germany)

In February Interface won the KYOCERA Environment Prize in the category “Biodiversity, Water & Natural Protection”. Former German Federal Environment Minister Professor Klaus Töpfer presented the prize of €25,000 at the Stuttgart Future Forum initiated by Fraunhofer IAO. Jury member Jörg Dürr-Pucher, chief representative of the German Environmental Agency, praised Net-Works as an outstanding initiative in his speech. We used the prize money to support the work of ZSL in establishing the Net-Works programme in the Philippine municipality of Guiuan, which was almost completely destroyed by typhoon Hayan. Net-Works made an important contribution to getting people back on their feet.

Architizer A+ Award (USA)

Now in its third year, The Architizer A+ Awards are the definitive global architectural award program with 90+ categories and over 300 judges. The award ceremony was held in New York City during the city’s design week, NYCxDesign and right before the International Contemporary Furniture Fair (ICFF).  An online public vote determined Net-Works the Popular Choice winner in the “Products+Sustainability” category with votes from over 100 countries and territories.

Ethical Corporation: Responsible Business Award (United Kingdom)

Having perhaps the longest list of nominees, the category of “Best Business/NGO Partnership” was one of the hardest to choose from at Ethical Corporation’s Fifth Annual Responsible Business Awards ceremony in London. About 400 entries were received this year, covering a range of sectors and industries from all over the world. The judges were looking for entries that clearly demonstrated how the company had incorporated responsible sustainability thinking into various areas of business, linking it back to commercial objectives. Interface and ZSL were in one category with well-known multinational companies and NGOs such as Marks and Spencer and Good World Solutions, Shell and the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves and Starwood Hotels & Resorts and UNICEF. The judges gave Net-Works the best review: “It’s a real social business project, economically successful and one that creates a truly sustainable business model.”

SEA Sustainable Entrepreneurship Award (Austria)

Together with about 250 guests from business, science, politics and society, the third SEA Gala was held in Vienna on 7 October. Net-Works was awarded the SEA Sustainable Entrepreneurship Award for “Best Project”. The award included a prize of €10,000. We were pleased to apply this amount to setting up the infrastructure for the extension of the project to Cameroon.

European Business Awards for the Environment (EBEA)

Last but certainly not least was the European Business Awards for the Environment, awarded once every two years by the EU. Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Commissioner Karmenu Vella said: “To strengthen the European economy, businesses should strive to put eco- innovation at the heart of their business model and the five winners of EBAE are excellent examples of this. These businesses, both large and small, prove that environmental and business performance can go hand in hand.”

These and other awards prove how powerful Net-Works is: helping us to grow our influence and continue to create a robust dialogue with our external stakeholders.

Another major Net-Works highlight was Nigel Stansfield’s presentation at the Clinton Global Initiative in New York. Part of the Clinton Foundation, the Clinton Global Initiative was established to engage world leaders and game-changers to tackle some of the world’s toughest challenges. Nigel announced our Commitment to Action: to open three new Net-Works collection hubs over three years, and to positively impact 10,000 people with this programme by 2020. To learn more about the results of that event: click here

In this post

‘Show the love’ – A cross-party commitment on #climate change

By | | No Comments

On Valentine’s Day a joint climate change pledge was signed by the leaders of the three main political parties in the UK as part of their run-up to the General Election in May.

This joint statement pledges action on climate change regardless of the outcome of the election and includes commitments to a strong, legal and binding global deal in #Paris2015 that is consistent with the 2 degrees goal – to work together to agree future UK carbon budgets, and to accelerate the transition to a low carbon economy, including an end to generation from unabated coal power (no end date specified).

CLG Pledge by main parties on climate change

Via Sandrine and Eliot at


In this post
, , , ,

Sustainable Cities Index 2015 – Ranking of 50 of the world’s leading cities

By | | No Comments

Revised estimates suggest that the world’s population is likely to reach 9.6 billion by 2050 – 0.3 billion larger than under earlier UN projections. And for the first time in history, the majority of the world’s population lives in cities, with urbanization growing fastest in the developing world. Population in urban areas is projected to increase from 3.6 billion in 2011 to 6.3 billion in 2050. In many circumstances, city infrastructures are unable to keep pace with such rapid increases in population – nor the growth of their inhabitants’ demands. Among the 63 most populated urban areas (with 5 million or more inhabitants in 2011), 39 are located in regions exposed to a high risk of at least one natural hazard; 72 % are located on or near the coast; 2/3 are in Asia.

In order to tackle these issues we need to improve the quality of life and economic competitiveness, cities have to become sustainable communities, i.e. more resource-efficient and environmentally friendly with access to basic services, energy, housing and transportation – for all.

According to the Institute for Sustainable Cities “A sustainable community is one that is economically, environmentally, and socially healthy and resilient. It meets challenges through integrated solutions rather than through fragmented approaches that meet one of the goals at the expense of the others. This requires a long term perspective. One that is focused on both the present and future, beyond the next budget or election cycle.”

Key Findings Sustainable Cities Index

ARCADIS Sustainable Cities Index

The Sustainable Cities Index from ARCADIS, a global natural and built asset design and consultancy firm, explores the three demands of People, Planet and Profit to develop an indicative ranking of 50 of the world’s leading cities. The research examined 50 cities from 31 countries ranking them across a range of 20 indicators in 5 key areas (the economy, business, risk, infrastructure and finance) to estimate the sustainability of each city. A detailed, evidence-based metric is derived to quantify each city’s performance. The headline ranking can then be divided into three broad subcategories: People, Planet and Profit.

Overall the top ten and bottom ten cities in the 2015 Sustainable Cities Index are:

green city frankfurt

“Green City” Frankfurt am Main, Germany, Left picture:, Right picture:

Top ten:
1. Frankfurt
2. London
3. Copenhagen
4. Amsterdam
5. Rotterdam
6. Berlin
7. Seoul
8. Hong Kong
9. Madrid
10. Singapore

Bottom ten:
40. Rio de Janeiro
41. Doha
42. Moscow
43. Jeddah
44. Riyadh
45. Jakarta
46. Manila
47. Mumbai
48. Wuhan
49. New Delhi
50. Nairobi

Key findings:

The German cities of Frankfurt and Berlin lead the way in the Planet sub-ranking, scoring well for waste management and low levels of air pollution in particular.

Rotterdam tops the People sub-index. Many of the world’s economic powerhouses are becoming less affordable for their citizens, with the cost of property in New York, London, Paris, Tokyo and Hong Kong penalizing their rankings.

Asian cities show the most divergence, with Seoul, Hong Kong and Singapore in the top ten and Manila, Mumbai, Wuhan and New Delhi forming four of the bottom five cites.

No North American city makes it into the top ten.

Cities in the Middle East have seen the highest real term population growth over the past five years, with Doha, Dubai and Abu Dhabi experiencing a rise of over 30 %.

Conclusions drawn from the report:

Across the world, cities are performing better for being sustainable for Profit and Planet purposes, but are failing to sufficiently meet the needs of their People.

City leaders need to find ways to balance the demands of generating strong financial returns, being an attractive place for people to live and work in, whilst also limiting their damage to the environment.

City leaders in all 50 cities must plan for population increases over the coming 15 years, but the pressure on some is immense. Whilst Tokyo’s citizens are expected to increase by just 1 % by 2030, Nairobi’s population will grow by 121 % and Shanghai will grow by 54 % to over 30 million people.

The trade-off between Planet and Profit is most starkly seen in the Middle East where Dubai and Doha score much higher in Profit than Planet sustainability where they rank in the bottom four.

The full rankings can be found here.


By | | No Comments

I recently joined more than 300 business leaders, policy-makers, academics and environmentalists to celebrate The Prince of Wales’s Corporate Leaders Group (CLG) 10th anniversary.

For the past 10 years, CLG has successfully brought together major companies with advanced sustainability innovations committed to influencing the political agenda and policy towards a green growth economy. The group has been widely recognised as one of the most consistent and outspoken voices in support of strong, pro-business policies on climate change. In particular, we have been lobbying for a stronger climate policy package, for strong energy efficiency policies and raising the issue of embodied, imported energy.

Members from both the EU and UK groups gathered at the anniversary event to hear from a variety of speakers, including the patron of the group, HRH Prince Charles, who reflected on the progress CLG and the wider community has made in addressing the threat of climate change since launching. He also recognised the crucial role the business sector has to play in tackling European environmental issues moving forward and announced the launch of a vision for a strong, sustainable UK economy.

Rob and prince of Wales

I have been a member of the EU Corporate Leaders Group, a strong business voice comprised of 23 leading companies that tries to encourage the EU to adopt ambitious sustainability targets, since January 2014. So, it was a pleasure to meet with HRH at this CLG event and be a part of such a key milestone, representing Interface as a member of the business community working to address environmental issues and build a better future.

Interface’s involvement with CLG started with Ramon Arratia who has for some time been a Fellow of the Cambridge Sustainable Leadership Programme, an institution within the University of Cambridge aimed at building leadership capacity to tackle critical global challenges.

As a CLG member, I have also been in Brussels several times over the last year to encourage EU Parliamentarians towards adopting an ambitious “2030 framework for climate and energy policies” without further compromise. Following is a picture of one my speaking engagements at the EU which shows how membership of the EU CLG really puts you into action.

Rob on stage

Other speakers at the 10th Anniversary event, which was brought together in collaboration with the University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL), included the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change Ed Davey, Unilever CEO Paul Polman, former Kingfisher CEO Sir Ian Cheshire, former President of the European Commission José Manuel Barraso, and former European Commissioner for Climate Action Connie Hedegaard. Collectively, the speakers outlined the benefits of a number of new CLG factors, including an infographic to illustrate the group objectives, early and vocal support for the UK’s world-leading Climate Change Act, and the global target for net zero emissions.

Whatever we face next in the battle to tackle climate change throughout Europe and beyond, it is certain CLG and Interface will be playing a major role in ensuring environmental issues are top of the business agenda.

Proud to be involved in the Friends of the Earth Office Fit-out

By | | No Comments

This week I’ve been at the new offices of Friends of the Earth near Oval in London. I am proud to have been involved in the fit-out and I think it’s great how they’ve applied our products in their carpet design.

The environmental campaigning charity required a flooring solution that would create an inspirational space for workers to enjoy, whilst having a low environmental impact to reflect their values.

A colour scheme was chosen to reflect the ‘what if the world was flat’ design developed by Peldon Rose, showcasing all aspects of their global reach; from the rainforest to the Arctic.

To meet the desired criteria, Peldon Rose enlisted us to provide sustainable modular flooring from our biophilic-inspired Urban Retreat and Net Effect Ranges and the Palette 2000 collection.

Iceberg Meeting Pod and Open Plan (2) Open Plan Office Polar Region Touchdown Point

In this post

Visualisation of countries most vulnerable to climate change

By | | No Comments

ND-GAIN Index has produced this visualisation of countries most vulnerable to climate change – it’s a project from the University of Notre Dame Global Adaptation Index (ND-GAIN).

It summarises vulnerability to climate change and other global challenges in combination with readiness to improve resilience. It aims to help businesses and the public sector better prioritise investments for a more efficient response to the immediate global challenges ahead.

Click on this link to view the original source data where you can manipulate view and zoom in on specific regions.

Thanks to

climate change

In this post