Students of the circular economy will be familiar with Interface, the carpet manufacturer. It’s founder, Ray Anderson, had something of a conversion to environmental issues in the 1990s, and systematically transformed his company over the years. They have pioneered a whole range of techniques for reducing their impact, and developed one of the best examples of how leasing could work in a circular economy to close the loop on manufactured goods.
Anderson worked with some of the best minds in the sustainability world, and over time developed a story about where he wanted Interface to go. He imagined a mountain to climb, and identified seven fronts to Mount Sustainability.
The challenge begins with reducing harm and eliminating waste, and then moves towards more ambitious heights, culminating in a transformed commercial model. Towards the end of the process, we are well beyond the walls of the factory. It involves inspiring change in customer behaviour and changing business culture more broadly.
Interface is a good model to look at for companies wanting to move towards a more sustainable platform. A lot of things are described as ‘eco’ products that really only deal with the first couple of fronts. The 7 Fronts sets the bar very high – not as a way of belittling anyone’s attempts to green their business, but as a standard we can aspire to. When he died in 2011, Anderson estimated that Interface were only 60% of the way along.