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Interface

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Posts by Ramon Arratia

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

Excerpt from: INTERFACE: THE UNTOLD STORY OF MISSION ZERO IN EUROPE, BY JOHN ELKINGTON.

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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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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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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

Via CLG

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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.

The category was – BEST BUSINESS/ NGO PARTNERSHIP

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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How much does the UK Govt. Spend each year on…

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Big BenThere is a fascinating spreadsheet (If such a things is possible) available to download here that lists the annual costs to the UK government for various aspects of our social spend.

A few interesting items I’ve pulled out:

* Taking a child into care costs £65,000 per person for each child/year

* Unemployment costs us each £10,000 per jobseeker per year

* Youth offending – £21,000 for each first time entrant/year

* Elderly care – £29,000 per person/year

* Homelessness – £8,000 per person/year

* Drug Misuse – £4,000 per addict/year

* A single prisoner costs each of us £39,000 per year

Sources: www.data.gov.uk/sib_knowledge_box/toolkit and http://neweconomymanchester.com/stories/832-unit_cost_database

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The 7 fronts of ‘mount sustainability’

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An excerpt from the publication – Interface the Untold Story of Mission Zero in Europe which details our sustainability journey:

As noted, Interface’s approach is built around the notion of Mount Sustainability, a towering challenge with seven fronts to be scaled. So how were the seven fronts identified?

“They were created from a combination of frameworks that had been developed by some of Ray’s most influential sustainability advisers,” explained Buddy Hay, Assistant Vice-President, Sustainability Strategies, “a group he often referred to as the ‘Eco Dream Team.’ This included Karl-Henrik Robèrt of the Natural Step, Paul Hawken with his focus on the redesign of commerce, and Janine Benyus with her extrapolation of biomimicry to set out the conducive conditions for life.”

By the time of his death, in 2011, Ray Anderson estimated that Interface had travelled 60% of the way to the top of Mount Sustainability, but he warned, “there’s tough terrain still ahead.”

Mount Sustainability

The Seven Fronts are:

1 Eliminate Waste Remove all forms of waste in every area of business.

2 Zero Problem Emissions Eliminate toxic substances from products, vehicles and facilities.

3 Switch to Renewable Energy Operate facilities with renewable energy sources: solar, wind, landfill gas, biomass, geothermal, tidal, low-impact/small-scale hydro or non-petroleum based hydrogen.

4 Close the Loop Redesign processes and products to close the technical loop using recovered and bio- based materials.

5 Use Resource-Efficient Transportation Move people and products efficiently to reduce waste and emissions.

6 Sensitize Stakeholders Help build a culture that integrates sustainability principles and improves people’s lives and livelihoods.

7 Redesign Commerce Create a new business model that demonstrates and supports the value of sustainability-based commerce.

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