One day, the circular economy will be the dominant model.

Published on 06/06/19

A lot is said about the circular economy: some are taking steps to implement it, but few have really mastered it. Certainly not as well as INTERFACE, an American company, which has been living it for 25 years already. It’s valuable experience, at a time when everyone should be asking themselves about their ecological footprint and their economic model. As part of Sustainable Development Week, we return to this inspiring journey.

When an industry asks itself questions...

INTERFACE. The company name may not ring a bell…Yet, you have most certainly already trodden on one of its products. INTERFACE is one of the global leaders in business floor covering.
A market which on paper is not really in synch with corporate social responsibility issues…and yet…
In 1994, Ray Anderson, the CEO at the time, found a note in his office mentioning a consumer group which was asking about the company’s environmental impact. This was all it took to set the boss’s mind racing.
A few months later, he set his employees to work on project “Mission Zero”.

7 objectives to reach by 2020.

Zero waste, zero toxic emissions, using renewable energy, recycling, transport optimisation, raising awareness with stakeholders and promoting a new, more responsible business model.
Those are the 7 objectives set by the CEO so that INTERFACE becomes the “number one industrial enterprise to completely respect the laws of sustainable development”.
On the eve of the deadline, and having seen the figures, we could say that the bet is won.

The results?

In less than 25 years, INTERFACE has succeeded in reducing 94% of its waste, 83% of its water consumption, 39% of its energy consumption and 73% of its CO2 emissions. What’s more, the company has introduced 49% of recycled raw materials into its production. But there’s one number that speaks even more loudly: 1 billion dollars’ turnover.
It’s that number alone that proves it is absolutely possible to combine entrepreneurial success with respect for the planet. It’s an approach that continues to inspire and guide the teams at the company.

Fishing nets to replace petrol.

Product design, business model, employee training…INTERFACE never stops innovating and working towards its objectives.
So when it put its head down to find alternatives to petrol, its main raw material,
it managed to replace it in part with bio-sourced fibres from linen oil, but also, surprisingly…from used fishing nets!
Since 2012 through its Net-Work programme, INTERFACE has collected more than 220 metric tonnes of fishing nets from the coasts of the Philippines and Cameroon, which were directly recycled and integrated into new floor tile production.
An approach which helps the region’s inhabitants develop the local economy and to clean up the oceans and therefore create a healthier environment. Another good example of circular economy.

Bio-mimicry and a new economic model.

But the company is not stopping there. It is inspired by nature to create new products with a bio-mimicry angle. This is how it developed a new attachment system which is less polluting, and is directly based on the feet of geckos, which are small reptiles able to climb anywhere.
In terms of its business model, the company is also revolutionising its approach by favouring a functional economy with its Evergreen Lease programme. This is a subscription service that allows INTERFACE to rent out floor coverings. In this way it remains the owner and can therefore maintain, replace, recover and recycle them.
And these are just a few examples among many…which demonstrate to what point the circular economy can truly transform a company and have an impact on the whole planet.


Photo credit : Interface