“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.
“… 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.