Global commercial and residential modular carpet leader Interface Inc has modeled its business strategy on ‘sustainability’, in view of governments, businesses and users increasingly adopting eco-friendly products and practices to combat climate change. Not surprisingly, the company has been named by Fortune as one of the ‘Most Admired Companies in America’ and ‘100 Best Companies to Work For’. The company’s India chief Sharad Mathur reveals that the Interface sustainability story is being told well in the country, and spells out how Interface India is doing it.
By Mrinmoy Bhattacharjee
Interface has stated that it wants to be “the first company that, by its deeds, shows the entire industrial world what sustainability is in all its dimensions: people, process, product, place and profits by 2020.” What are your ways and means to achieve it?
Sustainability is the guiding principle and philosophy within our company, and we have always understood that to do it right, we must tackle several dimensions at once. On process, for example, we have actively sourced ways to consume energy in a more sustainable way, and today, the energy efficiency at our manufacturing sites has improved by 43% since 1996 and 87% of energy used at manufacturing sites is from renewable sources.
As an organisation, Interface seeks to adopt a natural model of a closed-loop system and continues to look for better and brighter ways to leverage existing resources rather than mine Mother Nature’s supply. Today, 58% of raw materials used to make carpets are either recycled or bio-based. In 2012 we created Net-Works, the cross-sector collaboration in partnership with the Zoological Society of London and our yarn supplier Aquafil. Our aim was to establish a community-based supply chain for collecting discarded fishing nets in rural coastal areas in the Philippines and Africa and recycling them into carpet yarns, while lifting the incomes of impoverished fishing communities. The programme has collected over 125 tonnes of waste nets for recycling, given 900 families access to finance through community banks, and created a healthier environment for 60,000 people. Additionally, we have implemented a global carpet takeback and recycling programme, ReEntry, where we take back old carpets from our customers and recycle them into new ones. All of these have resulted in the significant reduction of our product carbon footprint by more than 60% since 1996.
We constantly challenge ourselves for innovating solutions to meet sustainability challenges. An example of this is TacTiles, our glueless carpet installation system that produces virtually zero VOCs and contributes to a healthier indoor environment. TacTiles come with a 90% lower environmental footprint than traditional glue installations, and they enhance installation efficiency, allowing for selective replacement and quick removal of carpet tiles at any time. These are just a few key examples of how we have strived to achieve Mission Zero, our commitment to eliminate all harm our company may have on the environment by 2020.
How are you helping users to comply with sustainability challenges and green requirements?
All our carpets come with an Environmental Product Declaration (EPD), a transparency tool that gives our customers full clarity on the materials used in, and the environmental impacts of, their carpets. We use a process known as the Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) to analyse our carpets’ environmental footprint from cradle to grave, which has helped us create effective EPDs. The availability of EPDs is one tangible way our carpets contribute to green building certifications such as LEEDv4. Interface carpets also help customers achieve accreditation for their interior spaces under the WELL Building Standard.
Interface carpets are rated highly under green certification schemes, which solidify their value to customers looking to meet sustainability requirements such as green building requirements. All Interface carpets are certified under the Carpet and Rug Institute’s Green Label Plus programme for contributing to healthy indoor air quality, and under the American National Standards Institute’s NSF 140 and the various green labelling schemes administered by the local green building councils.
So, how is your product design reflecting the company’s sustainability programme?
We have learned that when it comes to considering flooring solutions, customers look out for factors such as the ability to deliver on-trend product design at appealing price points. Interface’s flooring solutions are known for their cutting-edge nature-inspired design, and their ability to contribute to positive spaces that benefit occupants’ health and well-being.
Our newly-launched Global Change collection exemplifies our leadership in biophilic design. Pairing nature-inspired design with our modular flooring system expertise, Global Change is our most versatile collection to date. As Interface’s lead product designer Kari Pei describes, Global Change “…takes the end-user on a journey from the forest to the coast, offering beautiful aesthetics that also deliver modular versatility and functionality. Each product within the collection was designed to harmoniously blend into the next, and the collection has the unique ability to adapt as design and tastes evolve.”
We are also one of the first companies globally to scrutinise the way we do business and initiate a complete overhaul of our principles and practices to make ourselves sustainable and restorative. Because of this, sustainability is built into our products and has always been a key driver of our global growth.
What is your branding programme? How have you told your sustainability story last year, and what is the plan for 2018?
We unveiled two big initiatives recently, and we plan to mobilise them further in 2018. Our +Positive spaces campaign, launched in 2017, centers on creating well-designed interior spaces that promote well-being, making users feel happier and healthier. We have also taken our passion and commitment beyond built environments. We announced in 2016 that we would be embarking on our sustainability mission, Climate Take Back, which focuses on reversing global warming and creating a climate fit for life. Climate Take Back is about shifting negative mindsets on climate change towards optimism, collaboration and positive action. For 2018, we will be working to galvanise other businesses and organisations in India and around the region to see global warming as we do – an opportunity to create positive impact.
Which application areas will offer business opportunities for Interface?
Besides Grade A offices that currently use carpets, more offices are moving away from conventional tiled floors keeping in mind the impact a carpet has on acoustics, aesthetics, safety, clean air, ease of renovation, etc. The hospitality sector is finding modular carpets attractive too as wastages are fewer when compared to rolled carpets. Moreover, in case the carpet in a room or banquet hall is deeply stained, modular carpets are easy to replace and there is no down time. Education sector is also adopting carpets for better acoustics.
How is your distribution structured? How do you see your business growing over the next few years?
We have offices in six cities across India with selling and installation services capability. We are mostly a direct selling company. In the next two years we plan to expand to two more large cities where we are seeing initial signs of growth for Grade A office spaces.
We are seeing strong growth in commercial Grade A office spaces across most geographies, with strong absorption rates for new construction. Our goal is to grow at 50% more than the market rate with our comprehensive suite of solutions starting from concept design, installation and right up to ‘land fill avoidance’ end-of-life solutions.