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Interface Proposes Five Questions for Increasing Sustainability

Image credit: InterfaceFLOR

Sustainability trailblazer Interface says the answers to five particular questions can test any business’s approach to becoming a sustainable organization.

In a release announcing the company’s 2011 EcoMetrics and SocioMetrics report, the modular carpet company said it first linked sustainability progress to inquiry in 1994, when a customer asked a question about the company’s position on the environment to which it could not give a satisfying answer.

Today the company says the following universal questions are imperative:

1. How can we increase use of recycled and bio-based materials? Evaluating material alternatives through compatibility and footprint analysis is one of the best ways to help answer this question. Interface is pioneering commercial carpet applications for bio-based yarn that is created from corn and soy. Last year, 44 percent of raw materials used were from recycled or bio-based sources. In the past eight years, the percentage of recycled and bio-based raw material use has grown from four percent to 44 percent.

2. How can we prevent our products from ending up in landfill? Understanding the full lifecycle of products from raw materials to production, distribution, use and end of useful life shows a well-worn path. Interface is consider the best way to take back products from customers and extract further value from them. The company’s ReEntry 2.0 process reclaims old carpet and converts it into recycled raw materials. Interface is expanding an infrastructure for end-of-life carpet reclamation to recapture used face fiber to be reconstituted into nylon and convert used vinyl backing into new backing. Last year, ReEntry diverted 25 million pounds of carpet and carpet scraps from landfill. Since 1995, ReEntry has diverted a cumulative total of 253 million pounds from landfill.

3. How can we reduce greenhouse gas emissions and at the same time increase our use of renewable energies? Greenhouse gases in the atmosphere that cannot be absorbed by vegetation are causes of increased global temperatures, acidification in oceans, and dangerous climate change, according to WWF’s 2012 “Living Planet Report.” For Interface, actual greenhouse gas emissions at manufacturing facilities have been reduced by 32 percent from a 1996 baseline. Interface’s energy efficiency and direct purchases of renewable energy have resulted in a cumulative reduction of more than 22,000 metric tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions from baseline. This amount is the equivalent to the carbon sequestered by approximately 565,000 tree seedlings grown for 10 years, according to the U.S. EPA’s “Greenhouse Gas Equivalencies Calculator.” Energy from renewable sources accounts for 31 percent of energy used at Interface manufacturing facilities.

4. How can we reduce water consumption? Excessive water consumption by businesses and households threatens freshwater ecosystems and biodiversity globally. Finding ways to conserve water use in manufacturing processes is essential for lessening environmental impacts. Since 1996, Interface water intake per unit of production has decreased by 84 percent. Water intake includes all water used at manufacturing facilities, including administration buildings, customer support sites and warehouses.

5. How can customers make decisions about our products based upon trustworthy environmental facts? Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) are a leading-edge methodology for consumers and businesses, like nutrition labels only much more detailed, to make comparisons when purchasing products. EPDs offer detailed product “ingredients” and environmental impacts that occur throughout the entire life of a product. EPDs are based on life cycle assessment, which details the resource use and environmental impacts of products. EPDs follow standardized product category guidelines that are verified by third parties to provide full disclosure. In 2011, Interface developed EPDs for more than 90 percent of its products globally.

“Disciplined measurement is one way Interface accounts for what it takes from the earth and helps us to ultimately take less from the earth,” said Erin Meezan, vice president of sustainability for Interface, Inc. “And some of the questions that we’re asking as a result are not unique to Interface. Without a doubt, finding answers has universal meaning that can ultimately lead to a better future for the environment and for business.”

During the month of September 2012, Sustainable Brands will be publishing daily features, interviews, columns and case studies on “The New Metrics of Sustainable Business.” Find out how to submit content.

Bart King is a PR/marketing communications consultant and principal at Cleantech Communications. 

Bart King is the principal of New Growth Communications, a network of affiliated content producers and strategists serving clients in the emerging green economy. He is also Associate Editor of Sponsored Content for Sustainable Brands. Follow him @bart_king [Read more about Bart King]

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