Last Sunday was Earth Day, where over one billion people, in 192 countries took action to bring attention to the environment. People marched, held beach and trail clean-ups, planted trees and this year rallied around the issue of plastic pollution.

Individuals, taking a stand and demonstrating the power of one – by taking responsibility and acting to do something to protect our planet. Combined, they represented a truly global movement.

It’s no different for business. Every organisation has its sphere of influence and the ability to drive change, through its employees, customer base and supply chain. It has the potential to be an equally powerful movement. A business just needs to be brave enough to embrace its inner changemaker. At Interface, our late founder Ray Anderson once posed the question, “What’s the business case for ending life on earth?”

Virgin Unite, Ocean Unite, Earth Unscrewed, Interface

Clearly, there isn’t one. This conclusion has guided our company’s ethos since the mid-nineties in the form of our first sustainability goal, Mission Zero, to eliminate any negative impact we may have on the environment as a business by 2020. A lofty ambition, but with a 95 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and our manufacturing plants running on 87 per cent renewable energy, we’re on track.

For our employees, every day has been Earth Day

By seeking to do well, by doing good, we have emerged as the world’s leading manufacturer of carpet tile. In turn this has inspired our employees to be our ambassadors, intrapreneurs and guardians of sustainability. For our employees, every day has been Earth Day. 

We’ve needed to re-think our relationship with waste, to view it not just as a problem, but as an opportunity. For us, the era of the linear economy, that of take, make, and waste is best left to the past. Instead, we have designed our approach to start with waste, then make something beautiful and then take it back at life to be recycled and ensure it goes through that cycle a number of times.

Virgin Unite, Ocean Unite, Earth Unscrewed, Interface

Since 2011, we’ve used yarns for our products derived from waste fishing nets, with our supplier Aquafil producing a 100 per cent regenerated fibre from post-industrial and post-consumer sources. Across our portfolio we’ve been working hard to turn off the tap to virgin oil, with 87 per cent of our materials now derived from recycled or bio-based sources – to do this we’ve reduced, reused, recycled and reinvented to find the most sustainable solutions. 

Don't miss episode three of Earth Unscrewed: What a Load of Rubbish! featuring Jon Khoo from Interface

In 2012, we formed a project called Net-Works, in partnership with conservation NGO, the Zoological Society of London and Aquafil. Together, we created a supply chain that transforms discarded fishing nets into carpet yarn in a way that provides long-term social and environmental opportunities. 

Creating Net-Works required a collision in thinking between the worlds of carpet and conservation – quite possibly a world first. Together, we learnt to ask new questions – could a global supply chain for waste empower and be inclusive? Should a circular economy be as much about people as materials? Could we build community resilience through livelihood diversification? What’s the authentic and responsible way to achieve this?

Virgin Unite, Ocean Unite, Earth Unscrewed, Interface

We found our answers and the project has shown great potential, with the collection of 167 metric tons of nets providing 1,700 families with access to finance and 64,000 people benefitting from a cleaner and healthier marine environment. In addition, the communities we partner with are now exploring seaweed farming, marine protected areas are being established and local mangroves are being restored. It is a supply chain designed to benefit all life.

Our new mission at Interface is called Climate Take Back. We want to run our business in a way that reverses the effects of global warming and creates a climate fit for life. For us, it is no longer enough to do less bad, business needs to find ways of doing more good.  A circular economy is a key element to do more good.

Virgin Unite, Ocean Unite, Earth Unscrewed, Interface

Having pioneered with Net-Works, we’re now excited to be sharing our experiences and commitment with a wider group. In 2017 we joined, NextWave is a cross-industry consortium convened by Dell and Lonely Whale aiming to create a scaled supply chain for ocean-bound plastic. Interface are also joined by General Motors, Trek Bicycle, Van de Sant, Bureo Skateboards and furniture manufacturers Herman Miller and Humanscale. 

Together, NextWave as a group does not do waste. Instead it looks to match a range of waste ocean-bound plastics with manufacturers who will make beautiful, functional, circular products and tackle this at scale. It’s good to have found likeminded collaborators, for whom every day is Earth Day too. 

Discover more about Interface’s new mission, Climate Take Back here

- This is a guest blog and may not represent the views of Virgin.com. Please see virgin.com/terms for more details. 


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