Manufacturing with climate in mind: A journey to a sustainable future

Manufacturing with climate in mind: A journey to a sustainable future
Published: 22 October 2021

In our latest Manufacturing Online Forum with Nigel Stansfield, President of Interface – Europe, Africa, Asia, and Australia – we were given an insightful and inspiring account of how a manufacturing organisation has transformed its impact on the environment and become a global leader in sustainability.

Interface is an international flooring manufacturer, with manufacturing plants across Europe, Asia and North America, with annual sales of c. $1.2bn. It began its mission to improve its environmental footprint in 1994, when its founder and CEO, Ray Anderson, set the business a hugely ambitious goal of becoming a carbon neutral business.

Galvanising his leadership team and his employees throughout the world, from that point onwards Interface transformed its operations to reduce its carbon footprint and produce a new generation of products that would revolutionise its sector.

Nigel described that the key first step in this journey is to identify the impact your company has on the planet, such as its Scope 1,2, & 3 emissions – enabling you to set targets on how to eliminate waste and reduce CO2 emissions and water and energy use, ultimately leading to carbon neutral products.

Since 1996, the business has delivered on its initial ‘Mission Zero’ ambition, becoming the first global flooring manufacturer to sell all its products as carbon neutral across their full life cycle, and has influenced many other organisations, in their supply chain and beyond, to adopt transformational goals. In the process it has learnt many lessons that it has shared with thousands of other businesses, and has delivered some incredible statistics from its own operations:

  • 96% fewer greenhouse gas emissions

  • 89% less water used to make products

  • 46% reduction in energy usage

  • 48% of materials in the flooring products it sells are from recycled or bio-based sources

  • 76% smaller cradle-to-grave carbon footprint

  • 92% less waste sent to landfill

  • 99% renewable energy used at manufacturing sites in EU and US

Interface has now embarked on its next sustainability transformation – ‘Climate Take Back’ - with the goal to of helping to create a climate fit for life, and become a carbon negative enterprise by 2040.

Reflecting on his 37-year career at Interface, which has seen him pursue roles in supply chain, research and development and product design and innovation, Nigel’s advice for any company wanting to follow Interface’s example is to consider 3 things:

  • Be unreasonable and brave in your ambition

  • Get real and transparent about the data

  • If you want to transform, set an ‘impossible’ goal you don’t know how to achieve

He commented that you will be staggered how many people you can inspire on this mission, and how it can unlock potential across your R&D, Engineering, and Innovation teams. Nigel has seen first-hand how this new mindset can help attract talent to your business and retain your best people.

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