Making sustainability pay; getting raw with materials

Adam Tinworth
Adam Tinworth

So, carpet tiles. Probably not the most exciting thing in the world, but a major component of most office environments. Like all physical building components, they have the potential to be a huge consumer of resources, and therefore somewhere where you can make a difference to sustainability.

Kelly Grainger

Kelly Grainger, Sustainability Manager of Interface talked through the company’s sustainability focus, and the difference it has made to the business. He highlighted three areas:

  • Revenue – cut down on waste – they use ultrasonic cutting tools developed by NASA to eliminate waste in the carpet tile cutting process
  • Reputation – people view sustainable businesses favourably
  • People – the best people want to work in sustainable companies. They’ve attracted talent that would never have consider the carpet business, drawn by the possibility of making a difference

Old sustainability is about corporate sustainable – we need to shift from making the company more sustainable to making the products more sustainability – that’s what people actually buy. Less of the CSR – making companies “less bad”  –  more of a beauty parade for the company producing the most sustainable products.

You have to start with the data; understand your impacts and assess your impacts. For carpet tiles, the majority of the impact is at the materials end – 68%. For example, they’re focusing on reducing the use of Nylon (oil-based), and trying to use more recycled yarn. A product – Microtuft – which uses 50% of the nylon of other carpet tiles – has impend up new markets, because it can be used to make products for markets that traditionally don’t like carpets. And they’ve managed to make carpet tiles from 100% recycled nylon, which only a decade ago was thought to be impossible.

The next step is trying to create a circular business – where they can take back products at the end of their life, and reuse the materials in the next generation of products. Their preference is like-for-like recycling, where the products can be broken down and used in the manufacture of a product with similar value.

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Adam is a lecturer, trainer and writer. He's been a blogger for over 20 years, and a journalist for more than 30. He lectures on audience strategy and engagement at City, University of London.