IS THIS THE BEST SUSTAINABILITY POLICY OF ALL TIME?

This article looks into Interface’s sustainability policy and asks, is this the best sustainability policy of all time?

Ray Anderson

I have talked about Interface on here before, because of their impressive sustainability performance. I mention them again because I was reading an article about Interface’s journey towards sustainability and I was really struck by just how impressive and ambitious their sustainability policy is. You can find a link to the article here.

A lot of this is down to the heroic and farsighted leadership of their founder Ray Anderson, who is pictured above. If you are reading about Ray for the first time, then I would definitely recommend that you watch his insightful Ted Talk, which you can find here.

Clearly Ray planted the seed of desire to achieve sustainability pretty deeply at his company, because even after his death in 2011, Interface has continued to achieve astonishing results in reducing its environmental impact.

Let’s look at the 7 fronts that Interface have put together that form the core of their sustainability policy.

Interface 7 fronts

These cover everything from energy, water, waste, eco-efficiency and reinventing business models. That’s just the topic areas, the goals that come with these are equally impressive. In order to make sustainability a reality, this is the kind of ambition that is required.

In a way it is sad that it is only Interface and a handful of other companies that show this level of ambition. Because we need far more businesses to show this level of commitment for sustainability to be effective.

I have said this before about the power of setting stretch targets. They force organisations to examine critically every aspect of their operations. They inspire their employees and they are an indispensable part of any corporation’s journey towards sustainability. For more information on stretch targets and sustainability, watch this video by Steve Howard from IKEA.

Let’s looks at Interface’s performance against their stretch targets.

Mission Zero Metrics

As we can see, the performance that Interface has achieved is remarkable.

But what is it that has allowed this company to achieve such extraordinary success on corporate sustainability? To answer this, I think it is instructive to look at a quotation from the Chairman Daniel T. Hendrix. You can find this below.

For a company to be as alert to new strategies as Interface is, being constantly on the lookout for such strategies has to be embedded in the company’s culture so thoroughly that it transforms the way everybody in the company sees the world and how their work connects to it. Through actively engaging with uncertainty, alertness and active learning, this foundational culture of discovery has created the conditions for many successful strategic actions to be taken.

For me, this really hits the nail on the head. It has to be about a culture change within the organisation. If sustainability becomes too siloed, to stuck with subject matter experts and always “somebody else’s problem” you will never achieve results.

Interface managed to package all of the necessary elements of corporate sustainability together and combined that with astute leadership to become the company that they are today.

What you need to know

This article looked into Interface’s sustainability policy and asked, is this the best sustainability policy of all time?

We looked at the 7 fronts that Interface identified for their sustainability policy. These covered a wide range of areas and included targets that when achieved would radically transform the business.

We looked into the performance of Interface against the sustainability metrics of their Mission Zero project.

We also looked into how it was only by way of an organisational culture change that Interface was able to achieve such remarkable results on sustainability.

To answer the question in the title of this article, for me, yes Interface has the best sustainability policy of all time. But I am hopeful that other companies will work hard to come up with more ambitious sustainability policies and more aggressive sustainability strategies in the future.

Thank you for reading,

By Barnaby Nash

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below or reach out to me on social media. What company do you think has the best sustainability policy of all time?

Let’s stay connected

I can be reached on LinkedIn and on Twitter @FollowBarnaby

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