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Back in 1994, Interface’s founder, Ray Anderson decided his company would become the world’s first environmentally sustainable and restorative company. That was a big shock to the carpet industry’s petroleum-intensive manufacturing practices.

That’s when they started their Mission Zero sustainability efforts with the goal of eliminating their negative impact on the environment by 2020.

“It’s just been remarkable, the progress we’ve made over the past 25 years,” says Jay Gould, Interface’s CEO, who explains, “When we started with Mission Zero, we didn’t know how we were going to achieve that.”

Big impact

The company’s green changes since 1996 include an 89 percent reduction in water-use intensity; a 96 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions intensity from energy-use at manufacturing facilities — due to facility improvements and renewable energy use; and a 69 percent reduced average carbon footprint of Interface carpet tile products. 

They regularly receive Global Sustainability Leadership Recognition and they’re the only company to remain on the list each year since the survey started in 1997.

“Interface is a legendary story of how businesses can change and be profitable and do good for the planet,” says Dr. Jonathan Foley, executive director of Project Drawdown, a nonprofit focused on substantive solutions to global warming.

He says more businesses should follow Interface’s lead: “You can look at this as a problem or an opportunity and the opportunity will win,” he says. “This is an opportunity to make the world better and their customers better.”

Doing good

While carbon dioxide keeps the Earth warm, too much of it means the climate is getting hotter at an accelerated rate. According to Conservation International, the concentration of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere — 408 part​s per million in 2018 — is the highest level in 3 million years. 

The flooring manufacturer went from “doing no harm” to doing good. They’re looking for ways to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere by producing products that sequester carbon through the use of bio-based materials. And, in the meantime, all the products the company sells are carbon-neutral through the full lifecycle of the product.

With their Climate Take Back™ sustainability mission, they’ve changed their business model and revised how they think about their supply chain.

One of their products, CircuitBac™ Green, a commercially available backing, uses natural, plant-derived carbon in its materials and ultimately stores more carbon during its life cycle than it emits. With up to 87 percent total recycled and bio-based content, the backing stores more carbon than is emitted during manufacturing, making it “carbon negative.”

“If we are able to figure out how to filter [carbon dioxide] back out of the atmosphere and convert it back into value in the supply chain, we’ll be able to solve climate change and do so in a way that creates a whole range of opportunities for economic growth and innovation,” says Noah Deich, executive director of Carbon 180, a climate-focused NGO on a mission to fundamentally rethink carbon.

He says more companies need to be on board if we want to meet our climate goals.

“Very, very few companies understand the idea of pulling carbon from the atmosphere and using it as a potential resource and turning this waste back into an asset,” says Deich. “Interface has long been a leader in this space.”

Sustainability is better for business. 

“If we can do it, anyone can do it,” says Gould. “If anyone can do it, everyone should do it.” They’re encouraging other big corporations to help reverse global warming before it’s too late.

“People are taken aback when we say, ‘we’re climate optimists,’ but we say that because there are actions both large and small that everyone can take to make a difference in this journey,” says Gould, who’s committed to making the company carbon negative by 2040. 

“Everyone can do something little, which adds up to a big impact.”

Kristen Castillo, [email protected]

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