Inspired in Holland
I was privileged to be invited join the Interface Sustainability Ambassadors in Holland to hear about their progress and plans in Mission Zero – the company’s very real attempt to make the principles of sustainable development the practical basis of profits and success. They are on target: nearly zero waste and a 98% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions in Europe, with America and Asia close behind. This is a global company with a massive potential to make the world a better place and they are delivering. In the Philippines they are working with fishing communities building a local economy that takes fishing nets away from the waste stream and puts them into the closed loop carpet manufacturing system that Interface is perfecting. In Northern Ireland and Holland they are about to run factories on biogas derived from waste. Across Europe their plants are running on 100% renewable electricity. There is so much more but I invite you to investigate for yourself.
All of this activity comes from the vision of the founder and CEO – the late Ray Anderson. The Interface story is an inspiration and lesson to us all. Sustainability in business can be hugely profitable but it can not be done cynically. Like Ray and those who keep his legacy alive, you have to genuinely believe to sustain yourself through the trials and challenges of converting from environmentally damaging practice to a net positive approach. What impressed me about the Interface people was the depth of their conviction as much as the scale of their ambition. These are not tree huggers or activists but engineers, chemists, sales personnel, marketeers and finance managers: this is hard nosed, highly practical business. Its about making money but its also about enhancing and protecting the ecological and social systems without which capitalism would be a vain dream.
The COP climate change negotiations in Paris were very much on everyone’s mind at the Ambassadors conference. Rob Boogaard, President & CEO frequently meets with leading politicians and world leaders to tell them what Interface is doing and to convince them that low carbon, zero waste sustainability is the only viable future for commerce but he is battling against an army of well-funded lobbyists whose mission is to maintain the status quo until every last dollar is squeezed from the oil barrel. This narrow minded, short-sighted greed will impoverish all of us and guarantee the collapse of the global economy.
My time with Interface has given me the courage to be uncompromising in my own work. When I talk to businesses and managers about sustainability I am not asking for anything unreasonable or unrealistic: I am simply inviting you to be part of the next industrial revolution and the invention of a new kind of commerce. If you want to ignore the message of Cynnal Cymru and Interface then fine but you won’t be around for long.