From base year 1996 through 2008, Interface cut net greenhouse gas emissions not by Kyoto's 7%, but by 71% in absolute tons. During the same time period, their sales increased by two-thirds and their earnings doubled.
Do you consider yourself a "successful" business person? Are you a "cutthroat" industrialist? A cold-eyed, shrewd, bottom-line, profit-driven capitalist? Great! Now, are you tuned in to sustainable business, what it is, and how it works? If you're thinking "not so much," or "treehugger bullcrap," or "Al Gore," then you definitely need to stop thinking those things and check out this book - or you won't be competitive for long and you'll be easily outmaneuvered in the market.
Ray Anderson is the founder and leader of Interface Global, a $1B+ company that has been manufacturing floor carpet tiles since 1973. Making carpet is an industry that relies heavily on oil for petrochemicals and transportation, and on fossil fuels that run manufacturing equipment. For 20 years Interface ran like any other manufacturer, using cheap oil and adhering to the required governmental environmental regulations, which it saw as a pain and a liability. It polluted and did not consider any environmental factors in its production cycle. If you're familiar with manufacturing or business in general, you know that this is the norm.
In 1994, however, Anderson set the goal of being completely sustainable by 2020. They didn't have a clue where they were going, or if the technology existed or not, or even what they meant by sustainable at the time. They knew it had to do with their raw materials, the energy they used, materials they wasted or threw away, scrap, and where their product ended up (landfills). Anderson set high level, general goals for all Interface associates. "We need to be 100% sustainable by 2020." By harnessing the creative power of the people at Interface who are intimate with every aspect of day-to-day business, they are almost there. From base year 1996 through 2008, Interface cut net greenhouse gas emissions not by Kyoto's 7%, but by 71% in absolute tons. During the same time period, their sales increased by two-thirds and their earnings doubled. The main financial drivers for their increased ability to compete in their market have been driven by their sustainability goals.
Anderson has written a road map for any business to follow, based on nearly 20 years of proven bottom line results in the pursuit of sustainability. Do you hear people say a manufacturing plant can't run on solar power for a profit? They already are. How about a plant that harnesses landfill/methane gas from under a landfill at a profit? Interface is doing it in Georgia, turning a government liability into a local government revenue stream and a for-profit power source for manufacturing. Have you accepted the fact that business has to pollute to make a profit? It's interesting to note, then, that there are manufacturing plants today where the water leaving the plant is cleaner than the water entering.
Interface has also looked to the discipline biomimicry - examining nature for engineering solutions - to solve engineering challenges, and have come up with far-reaching new products that opened up new markets and new revenue streams, such as eliminating the need for glue during carpet installation by researching how geckos walk on glass and ceilings.
For those that might think that this is just some freak $1B+ company, Interface has been instrumental in influencing companies like Walmart, who are now starting to walk down the same path to sustainable operations. Walmart is the third largest company in the world, and few if any would argue that they are not profit-minded and profit-central in their outlook. So when Walmart decides to change (and change all of its suppliers), then it has far-reaching implications in how business is done. And luckily there are many more examples each year. Sustainability makes a company lean, tight, more competitive, more marketable, a better place to work (thus drawing the best talent), and years ahead of any government regulations, even decades. Sustainability looks at the people who live where your materials come from, the people that work for you, your customers, and all the people you impact in any way.
The bottom line is that when a company looks at sustainability variables, they find new revenue streams and more efficient operations. If you're in business, whether in an office, or manufacturing, or service, then this book is a must read to keep your long term competitive edge.