Fascinated by Interface’s values, culture and ability to redesign their value chain into a model that is sustainable and makes plenty of business sense, Helle Bank Jorgensen interviewed Nadine Gudz, Sustainability Strategy Director at Interface Canada Inc.
Q. If you could share your most valuable lesson learned in redefining your value chain to its current sustainable structure, what would it be?
A. Redefining your value chain requires a life cycle lens or mind-set. Tools like Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) can help you identify where the biggest levers for change exist in your value chain which can lead to strategic decision-making about what goes into your product, how it is made and what are the end-of-life possibilities. Interface’s Mission Zero journey to eliminate any negative impact the company might have on the environment by 2020 is necessarily a collaborative effort and a journey of change. Customers have become suppliers of post-consumer carpet and suppliers have become customers of recycled sources of raw materials. Specifically, LCA has shown us that the bulk of Interface’s environmental impacts occurs at the raw materials extraction/processing stage, specifically of virgin nylon. Using recycled nylon dramatically reduces environmental impact potential. Since 2007, in collaboration with yarn suppliers Universal Fibers and Aquafil, we have been able to recycle Nylon 6, 6 and Nylon 6, and further our climb up Mount Sustainability.
Q. How can businesses engage employees to create such a committed culture as Interface has done?
Culture emerges from the conditions you create in your organization. The kinds of conditions Interface put in place included changing expectations about what counts. For example, after Ray Anderson was inspired in 1994 to transform his company into a restorative enterprise, and a whole new set of metrics were developed to monitor the organization’s energy and material throughputs, and redefine how success was measured at the company. Everyone was expected to contribute to Interface’sMission Zero goals. This was not the responsibility of one individual or “department.” It requires clear support from committed senior leadership as well as the brilliance and engagement of all associates across all levels of the organization. Integrating Interface’s sustainability journey into the overall purpose of the business, as a core business strategy, means this is a shared journey. When sustainability shapes a higher purpose for the organization, employees feel inspired. An inspired workforce is invaluable. Though it may not show up as a line item on your balance sheet, it’s the ultimate investment – a springboard to unforeseen levels of innovation, creativity and productivity.
Q. What factors or variables are required for you to move even further on your sustainability journey, or Mount Sustainability?
Associates at Interface understand that in order to accelerate the company’s Mission Zero journey, we need to spark global innovation through improved communication, collaboration and organizational learning on an ongoing basis. In parallel, the business needs to continue to leverage its influence towards broader systems change. Redesigning Commerce is a key tenet in Interface’s sustainability roadmap. It means collaborating with a multitude of actors to create the systems and infrastructures required to move societies and economies toward more sustainable models. One example includes working with diverse stakeholders to regionalize carpet reclamation and recycling.
It has been a pleasure discussing with Nadine, as the work of Interface represents a true success story where full value chain considerations were examined and incorporated. Despite the advantageous position they are in, Interface continues to build success across the company and embark upon ongoing challenges. At B. Accountability, we look forward to tracking the progress and journey of Interface up Mount Sustainability as well as witnessing how this case study continues to inspire businesses around the world.