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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: and

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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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Interface – the Untold Story of Mission Zero in Europe

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Mission Zero John Elkington BookJohn Elkington, a global authority on corporate responsibility and sustainable development, has authored a case study entitled ‘Interface the Untold Story of Mission Zero in Europe’. Commissioned by us to celebrate our Mission Zero anniversary, he charts the Interface journey over the past 20 years highlighting the systems changes we have engineered into the core of our business.

 “We were very excited to get this level of access to senior executives at Interface,” says John Elkington. “And we conclude that, twenty years into Mission Zero, Interface is well positioned to break through in a number of critical areas—including climate change, water and waste.”

The case study is available for download and I’ll publish excerpts here on Cut The Fluff. This section highlights some of the sustainability leaders across multiple industries, and where we fit in the broader picture.

“To get a better sense of the significance of recent achievements, it helps to know a bit about the history of Interface and about the nature and scale of its current operations.

The story of what would become Interface, Inc. began in 1973, when founder Ray Anderson recognized the need for flexible floorcoverings for the modern office environment. He led a joint venture between Carpets International Plc. (CI), a British company, and a group of American investors to produce and market modular soft-surfaced floorcoverings.

Aside from Anderson, always a larger-than-life figure, the other main actor in the story was the apparently unexciting carpet tile. This had been invented in the 1950s at what is now the Interface factory in Scherpenzeel, the Netherlands. Anderson came across this innovation and promptly adopted the tile concept as the core of what Interface would do. In the process, he helped disrupt the traditional broadloom carpet market, particularly in the office sector.

Vital Statistics

On its first day of operation, CI had just 15 employees, including Anderson. And it faced significant challenges from sharply rising petrochemical costs, since most raw material in the carpet industry come from oil. Happily, its use of advanced cutting and bonding technology sustained the company, enabling it to meet the needs of the office-building boom of the mid-1970s. Modular carpet tiles grew in popularity and by 1978 Interface sales had reached US$11 million. The company went public in 1983.

In 1987, Interface acquired Heuga Holdings BV, based in Scherpenzeel. This company had pioneered the carpet tile. Interface had already some sales offices and manufacturing operations in the UK, Canada and the United States but acquisition made Interface become an increasingly global company.

We have tracked Interface for quite some years. Their reputation in the sustainability community has been fairly consistent—as shown in Figure 2, based on GlobeScan’s polling of experts in the fields of corporate social responsibility (CSR) and sustainability.”

Many thanks to John Elkington and Volans. John can be found on Twitter @volansjohn 

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A dozen points on the EU’s climate and energy efficiency package

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2030 Climate Energy Framework1. At Interface we strongly support the idea of promoting energy efficiency. At our European division we have been able to cut our carbon emissions by 90% since 1994 and we continue to drive them down. Improvements in energy efficiency have been responsible for 60% of these cuts, with the remaining 30% coming from converting to green electricity and, more recently, to biogas.

2. Our experience is that improving energy efficiency is the most effective, easiest and cheapest option available to businesses and governments that wish to reduce their carbon emissions. If, for instance, we had managed to achieve 60% of our carbon emissions since 1994 by converting to renewable energy, then that would have been much more expensive.

3. Interface has been supportive of the European Union’s climate and energy efficiency package, and we are pleased that the EU is now looking at putting more effort into promoting energy efficiency across the continent. But we believe the time is right for a more radical approach. Just setting modest targets will not deliver the rapid change that we need. Instead the EU must come up with a proper energy efficiency package supported by updates of several relevant directives.

4. We think the most effective way of encouraging energy efficiency improvements is through regulation that concentrates on the product level. A great example of this has been the EU’s work with the car industry, where it has defined a performance metric on tailpipe emissions (gCO2/km) for manufacturers, set out an average target for companies to meet (90gCO2/km by 2020) and introduced regulation that forces the publication of that metric in advertising and at point of sale. These measures have been supported by national and local governments, which have introduced tax breaks and penalties that have reinforced the drive towards lower carbon cars.

5. We need a similar roadmap for other industry areas. If we take buildings, for instance, the EU could pick two performance metrics: kWh/m2 for energy in use and kgCO2 for embodied carbon in new construction. It could then introduce strong European targets for new buildings, mandate all public and company buildings to show their energy efficiency levels and, at national level, encourage governments to link energy efficiency performance with stamp duty and with local council taxes.

6. If we want to make real progress on energy efficiency the EU needs to adopt a similar approach sector by sector, preparing a battery of actions for each sector at product performance level. It needs to regulate energy when it is consumed, not when is generated.

7. The EU has been also successful in implementing performance standards and labels for energy using products such as fridges and washing machines. But it’s time to get much more radical and get those companies to compete much more fiercely in obtaining the lowest energy consumption. Let’s find a way to reward those companies who will come with the best innovations instead of having a minimum common denominator approach. We also need to expand that approach to more energy using products.

8. Some argue that the EU should be wary of improving energy efficiency across the board because this will distort the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), but we reject that analysis. The ETS does not in any case deliver a proper price for carbon. We cannot put off action any longer due to fears that such action will damage an already broken system. The primary goal for EU climate policy must be an aggressive pursuit of energy efficiency. Once that has been undertaken, we can adjust the rest of climate policy to accommodate the primary goal of decoupling Europe from energy consumption.

9. It is also a fallacy to say that pursuing better energy efficiency costs too much. European Commission research has shown that across Europe we can achieve a 2.6% reduction in imported gas for every 1% increase in energy efficiency. According to the European Alliance to Save Energy, if all computers were switched off when not in use, that would save 360m euros per year in the UK and Germany alone, and if every company PC in Germany was fitted with energy saving software, the national economy there would be 1.9bn euros better off.

10. The product thinking used for cars or energy using products can be equally effective on products with high embodied energy. A building can be design to have radically less embodied energy by using different raw materials or by designing in a smarter way. That applies for a sofa, a diet, a plastic bag, a toy, a chemical, carpet or cement. The first step is mandating product transparency through either EPDs (Environmental Product Declarations) or developing magic metrics for each product category.

11. If there was an EU regulatory regime that rewarded companies for redesigning their products to save embodied energy, then the gains could be even more impressive. For example, for a little more cost Interface can design a carpet with 50% less embodied energy, saving a huge amount of energy in the supply chain. But there is no financial incentive to do so. If, however, a carpet with 5kgCO2/m2 was subject to lower VAT than a carpet with 20kgCO2/m2, then we would have an incentive to convince more customers to buy those products., instead of just appealing to a good cause. The same would apply for all kinds of physical products, from plasterboard to plastics. The only way to incentivise product design is through the same battery of policy initiatives that were targeted at the car industry.

12. In summary, huge and relatively cheap gains on energy efficiency can be made across industry by focusing regulation on product design. What we need are directives allied to performance metrics across all sectors, an average target for companies to meet, further regulation that forces the publication of those metrics, and the support of national and local government tax policies to reinforce these measures. If we move down this path, then dramatic change can be achieved. Carrying on with the current mindset, where only general EU-wide headline grabbing targets are set with little regulatory back-up, will deliver too little, too late. We urge the EU to take this unique chance that we have to move in a new direction as soon as possible, given that both energy security and climate change are back in the headlines for a period of time.

Let’s take this opportunity in front of us right now.

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I’m “bringing it home” – Green Building Convention 2014, South Africa

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Last week I had the privilege to participate and to speak in the 7th Annual Green Building Convention organised and hosted by The Green Building Council South Africa (GBCSA) at the Cape Town International Convention Centre.

It was my first trip to South Africa and I’m still enthusiastic about the warm welcome I received, the excellent line up of speakers I listened to and the people I met during the two days of the convention.

“It’s time” – Green Building Convention 2014

Under the motto “it’s time for Africa” and we are “bringing it home” the conference touched on prevailing and futuristic topics to better understand the opportunities created by change in the built environment. At this point it is impossible to mention all speakers, but the following four individuals were a great source of inspiration for me and I’m “bringing home” lots of food for thought for me personally and my colleagues at Interface:

- DION CHANG – Is an innovator, creative thinker, visionary and renowned trend analyst. Although his feet remain firmly planted on African soil, he uses a global perspective to source new ideas, gauge the zeitgeist and identify cutting edge trends.

- MICK PEARCE – Is a Zimbabwean architect. His models are drawn from nature from copying natural processes, which he studies through the new science of biomimicry. He believes architectural expression must construct a balance between the natural, social and economic environments in which a project is sited. He designs low maintenance buildings with low capital and running costs, using renewable energy systems of environmental control.

- SIYABULELA XUZA – Mthatha-born scientist and innovator. Siya began experimenting with rocket fuels in his mother’s kitchen. This passion turned into a serious science project that culminated in him developing a cheaper and safer rocket fuel. He is often referred to as the new Mark Shuttleworth, has had a planet named after him and has garnered worldwide acclaim for having developed an alternative rocket fuel. He is now “bringing it home” and turning his attention to Africa’s energy problems.

- VINCENT TRUTER – Is a cross disciplinary creative mind with a passion for sustainability. He is a gifted public speaker and facilitator that is passionate about making profit and purpose meet. He took me on a two-wheeled journey (see the picture below) that makes green mobility a reality for South Africans – something we take for granted in Europe.


After taking part in the Convention I can yet again argue that sustainable building is truly the future! The challenge will be to deliver practical tools, to use efficient building technologies, radical materials and intelligent products to deliver change to the ground. In this collaboration and knowledge, transfer is key.

Knowing that there are so many passionate people from local to global and global to local makes me think positively that (hopefully) very soon the built environment will be transforming towards a truly sustainable landscape, at home in Europe, in Africa and elsewhere.


Group picture in front of the Cape Town Stadium on our electric bicycle experience

Electric bike experience


Our new collection Human Nature welcomes the delegates in the entrance to the main stage 

Human Nature installation

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Better Growth, Better Climate.

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In the next 15 years…

A short summary of the recently launched New Climate Economy synthesis report has been released by the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership and The Prince of Wales’s Corporate Leaders Group. The succinct briefing is prepared with a business audience in mind and highlights the key points of the report: that the next 15 years are crucial, there are major opportunities for economic systems such as cities, land use, and energy, and that economic growth and action on climate change can be achieved together.

See more here

Better Growth Better Climate


#Climate2014, #climatechange, #CWNYC

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Press Release – CLG Pushes For Net Zero Economy At UN Summit On Climate Change

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CWNYCThe Prince of Wales’s Corporate Leaders Group (CLG), whose members include Coca Cola Enterprises, EDF Energy, Jaguar Land Rover, Philips, Tesco, and Unilever, among others, is urging governments to use the upcoming UN summit on climate change in New York on 23 September to raise ambition and commit to concrete action to drive down emissions and pave the way to a low carbon future.

The CLG, hosted by the University of Cambridge Instituted for Sustainability Leadership (CISL), represents UK, EU and multinational businesses from a range of sectors that support transformative action on climate change and resource efficiency. These companies take the science of climate change seriously and are already pursuing progressive policy and market reform. They want governments to go further by providing regulatory certainty and ambitious targets on GHG emissions and energy efficiency, and to adequately price carbon in order to stimulate investment in a low carbon economy and society.

The patron of the Corporate Leaders Group, HRH The Prince of Wales, will release a video message at the summit, in which he will say: “The battle against climate change is surely the most defining and pivotal challenge of our times. We cannot meet the climate change challenge unless business and government actively work together. Through the work of my Corporate Leaders Group, I am encouraged that more and more businesses are supporting a transformative goal of reaching net zero greenhouse gas emissions well before the end of the century. Taking action on climate change is neither inherently bad for business nor against economic interests.  It is, in fact, the only rational choice.”

In the week of the summit, which will be attended by 125 world leaders, including US President Barack Obama, French President Francois Hollande, and UK Prime Minister David Cameron, the Corporate Leaders Group will partner with Track Zero and Skanska to host an event at the Empire State Building on the role of cities in meeting climate goals. Speakers will include Christina Figueres, Executive Secretary, UNFCCC, Farhana Yamin, Founder, Track Zero, and Elizabeth Heider, CSO, Skanska US.

Elizabeth Heider, CSO of Skanska US said: “Climate change is a critical issue that is increasingly influencing major business decisions. Investment in low-carbon energy efficient options makes business sense and is the best strategy for a prosperous future economy. By setting clear and binding energy efficiency targets, in the context of a coherent and ambitious overall climate change and energy security strategy, governments would send the right signal to businesses wanting to invest.”

The Corporate Leaders Group will also support the launch at the summit of a new World Bank statement on Carbon Pricing, which will be endorsed by multiple governments, companies, and investors, and will build on the messages outlined in the CLG’s Carbon Price Communiqué. World Bank President Jim Kim will launch the statement, alongside the UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon on September 23.

José Manuel Entrecanales, the ACCIONA Chairman & CEO said: “Climate change poses huge risks to us all, but also it also offers significant opportunities. The low carbon economy is worth $4 trillion and growing at a rate of 4% per annum. Renewables have a vital part to play in ensuring a safe, sustainable future energy supply for us all. By providing clear support and ambitious targets, governments would trigger a clean energy revolution.”

Deforestation will be another key issue under discussion at the summit. The importance of tackling it is recognized by the group and its Royal patron. The Banking Environment Initiative, another CISL-hosted business platform whose patron is The Prince of Wales, will also take part in discussions at the summit on deforestation.

“If we want to avoid the dangerous consequences of climate change, we must preserve tropical forests immediately,” said Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever. “As business leaders it is imperative that we use our purchasing power to catalyze behavior change and help transform the supply chains of some of the world’s most environmentally intensive commodities. Deforestation is illegal and cannot be reversed. If we work together to halt deforestation we will have the chance both to stop global warming and to preserve some of the world’s richest biodiversity.”

The Corporate Leaders Group is a member of the We Mean Business coalition, which will launch its flagship report on the eve of the UN Summit in New York. The report will illustrate low carbon business success stories and identify policy measures that would allow business to go even further in helping to meet the climate change challenge. The launch will be accompanied by a CEO panel discussion on how a new clean industrial revolution is good for business and is already creating jobs.

Sandrine Dixson-Decleve, Director of the Prince of Wales’s Corporate Leaders Group said: “There is a powerful and growing consensus among leading businesses on the need for action. More companies and investors are committed to bold leadership on climate than ever because they know it makes business sense. It stands to reason that if you need to modernise then do it right – and bring in low carbon energy assets and infrastructure which will provide multiple benefits and boost the economy.  Now is the time to accelerate both ambition and action, ahead of the UNFCCC meeting in Paris in 2015, at which leaders will need to agree a new global deal.”

Notes and contact:

More on Twitter: @climateCLG, @CISL_Cambridge, @WMBTweets, #wemeanit, #CWNYC and via the web

The Prince of Wales’s Corporate Leaders Group (CLG) is hosted by the University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL), which brings together business, government and academia to find solutions to critical sustainability challenges. See more at:

The CLG is a partner of the We Mean Business coalition representing organisations working with thousands of the world’s most influential businesses and investors. Members: BSR, The B Team, CDP, Ceres, The Climate Group, The Prince of Wales’s Corporate Leaders Group and WBCSD.

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The 2030 EU climate package key is Poland

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Poland EUThe European Commission proposed 2030 climate package is now being discussed and negotiated in multiple fora. It looks that the key is Poland.

Poland generates more than 80 percent of its electricity from coal, lots of it in the form of lignite. The coal sector employs 115,000 people and it’s not just that number of jobs that concerns me: these people are heavily unionised and highly political.

Poland has the second worst air quality (after Bulgaria) in the EU. A study from Bankwatch suggests that breathing in Krakow for a year can be exceptionally damaging to your health – a resident inhales as much benzopyrene, a highly carcinogenic pollutant, as the equivalent of smoking 2,500 cigarettes.

Poland has a big neighbour with lots of gas but that’s obviously not on the table right now…

The only way forwards is via energy efficiency and by tackling energy demand, and that infrastructure must be created in a way that also generates jobs. Poland could become the EU hub for energy efficiency technology, a market for building retrofits, a test bed for European policy and a receiver of funds to innovate and experiment with energy efficiency.

As an aside, I don’t mind whether we have an EU energy efficiency binding target or just a carbon one. Instead of focussing on energy efficiency targets we should focus on creating the right frameworks for efficiency innovations to become mass market. Regulating demand though product policy, enabling technologies to overcome entry barriers, opening up old oligopolies – these are the policies that will get us further.

#EU2030 #climate

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Join Thousands of Volunteers for the Third Annual International Green Apple Day of Service

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It’s that time again where I’m getting ready for the 3rd edition of the Green Apple Day of Service. This year I am dedicating some time to talk at my son’s school about sustainability and about “where we learn matters”. A nice bunch of my Interface collaborators around the world are also volunteering to support this great movement.

What makes the Green Apple Day even stronger this year is that it goes global with the “Global Coalition for Green Schools”.

Global Coalition Logo Final

This came into being to create a powerful global force for ensuring that every child has the opportunity to learn in a green school within this generation. It seeks to amplify the voices of the many national coalitions around the world who work tirelessly to make their schools healthy, safe and efficient. Many European GBCs are part of this global coalition – please feel free to connect with your local GBC if it’s part of this big movement!

The Green Apple Day of Service will take place on Saturday, Sept. 27, 2014. This official date is symbolic as projects can happen anytime from now until November.

About last year Green Apple Day of Service :


As our last year common action worked pretty well in Europe, we’ve decided to continue with a presentation to raise awareness on waste, recycling and on the oceans preservation. We’ll illustrate the presentation with our Net-Works programme as it’s the perfect hook to sensitise children around the protection of the oceans and marine life. Net-Works is the perfect story, implemented by people for people and easy to understand. A template will be available for volunteers to go and present it in the schools of their children or wherever they like!

But if you’re not familiar with speaking in front of an audience or if you have any other ideas to make this Green Apple Day of Service happen in any schools you’d like, please feel free to propose and suggest ideas.

If you run out of inspiration, please have a look at :

I’m sure our vast network of champions will demonstrate the strength and breadth of our movement, leaving a meaningful and lasting local impact. Do not hesitate to come back to me with as many ideas as possible!!

If you have any questions, please feel free to write to me at





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Everyday products that contain harmful chemicals

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Apple Harmful ChemicalsLast week Apple announced that it would stop using two harmful chemicals, Benzene and n-hexane, that are used in the final assembly process across its lines of iPads, iPhones and Macs. These chemicals are thought to cause cancer and nerve damage.

Apple are not the only company using rare earth elements, toxic chemicals, or untested materials in their products. The long term issues and damages caused by these will be unknown for many years. The real issue will probably be their combined use.

Not only is this a worry for our health but it also can be a challenge as we try to build a more circular economy. These chemicals are often very hard to process, but thankfully in many instances there are alternatives.

Here are some everyday household items that you may not know contain, or use, noxious substances in their production. 

* No real surprises here – but many sanitizers, deodorisers and cleaning products contain all kinds of nasties from Perchloroethylene, Nitrobenzene to Petroleum Distillates. Carcinogenic and affect central nervous system – Use eco alternatives where possible.

* Avoid artificially scented candles, the fumes can be poisonous.

* Many beauty products – Lipsticks, talc, shampoo, and pretty much anything that contains mineral oil or petroleum jelly e.g. Baby oil – They often also contain chemicals, some of which are connected with health issues such as respiratory problems, allergies and skin development. Google, but read thoroughly, some of the sensationalised reports are dubious at best.

* Some toys and candles still contain lead! Most people now know the toxic nature of lead and yet some products still slip through the net.

* Batteries – Jam packed with all kinds of harmful elements. Obviously dispose of properly and ensure your children are protected.

* Smokeless smoking devices – At this time nobody knows how safe e-cigarettes are – ‘vaping‘ as it’s known.

* Mothballs – Contain paradichlorobenzene or naphthalene. Cancer causing, red blood cell deteriorating chemicals.

* Pressed wood products – (Anything that looks like wood but has been reconstituted) – Sometimes contains arsenic and the gluing agent can be urea-formaldehyde. Causes burning eyes and throat, difficulty breathing, and asthma attacks. Cancer has been linked.

* The computer you’re sat in front of – (And nearly every electronic device) - lead, cadmium, silver, chromium, mercury, brominated flame retardants and more. All toxic to humans.

* Printers and paints (Plus many other applications) – Some studies confirm that water paints, laser and ink-jet printers can releases volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and ozone particulates. VOCs are connected to lung and heart conditions.

* Pesticides in food – Our food is covered in products that deter weeds, plant diseases or insects.  There are proven links to non-Hodgkin lymphoma and leukemias as well as other health conditions. According to the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants, 9 of the 12 most dangerous and persistent organic chemicals are pesticides.

Of course it is impossible to avoid all pollutants and the research is growing daily. This list is by no means exhaustive and the advice is always simply to read the labels and use healthy alternatives where possible. Considering what is harmful to you, your family, as well as the environment.

Sources: Associated Press, Wikipedia – Rare Earths, PBSSafer Chemicals, Minnesota Health Dept.

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