Taking Steps Towards Sustainability

21 06 2015

Since 1994 Interface (http://www.interfaceglobal.com/Sustainability.aspx) has been an inspiring example of how a company can wake up to their environmental impacts after 21 years of operating, and change the combined cultural approach of their employees to reduce their operations negative impact on the environment.

“Mission Zero” by Interface is a commitment to eliminate their negative impact on the environment by 2020. When they started they did not know how they would meet the commitment. Their Founder, Ray Anderson, said “We have to cut the umbilical cord to oil”. He reached out to his employees and asked for help.

They acknowledged that, “Along with increasing efficiency, design innovation and recycling efforts, we are constantly looking to replace virgin raw materials as one way to close the loop around our products and cut our dependency on oil.” The European progress is nicely summarized in this infographic called Closing the Loop (http://www.interfaceflor.co.uk/web/closing-the-loop).

Obtained from http://www.interfaceflor.co.uk/web/closing-the-loop

Progress by Interface in Europe to eliminate their dependency on oil. Obtained from http://www.interfaceflor.co.uk/web/closing-the-loop

Interface has an impressive track record, which includes being the only company to have been in the Sustainability Leaders, A GlobeScan/SustainAbility Survey, every year since its inception in 1994. Download the report

The 2015 Sustainability Leaders, A GlobeScan/SustainAbility Survey Report

The 2015 Sustainability Leaders, A GlobeScan/SustainAbility Survey Report

If you are wanting help to steer your organization on the path to “Mission Zero” then contact us to discuss how through my consulting services we can together climb your own “Mount Sustainability”.





Navigating the Passage

30 05 2010

For any organisation, keeping up with legislative requirements can be quite a challenge.  As we all know, getting offside with the taxation department in any country only leads to investigations and subsequently leaves you less time to run your business.  Accordingly, getting offside with environmental protection departments’ can be just as challenging, as your whole operation can be shut down until the issue is rectified.  If you are in the manufacturing sector, this is a particular concern, as recovering from lost orders and bad publicity about disregarding the environment are tricky to recover from.

This article looks at ways to be proactive in setting your organisation’s course so that you minimise your chances of running up against legislation.  I call it “navigating the passage” as it is like sailing a yacht from one ocean to another ocean through a narrow channel.

We are all collectively guilty of operating businesses in a way where we are not taking into account limitations such as:

  • Using up resources like coal, oil and forests faster than they can be replaced (certainly not within many generations)
  • Gathering too quickly animals, fish and plants such that their populations are no longer self sustaining.
  • Reducing the areas of forests that provide our oxygen
  • Altering the natural mixture of nutrients in our soil
  • Increasing the levels of pollution in our water, food and air
  • Producing new substances that nature can not dispose of such as polystyrene and nuclear waste

These limitations may be viewed as frustrating limitations to continuing business as usual, or as an opportunity to work with them so as to be ahead of others in your industry.  In terms of the “navigating the passage” analogy, it means that you choose to take your business right up to the edges of the coastlines exploring the details and opportunities, rather than staying out in the middle of the ocean.

When you study the upstream and downstream reliance your organisation has on resources or the part it plays in the production of pollution, you enable yourself to look for alternative methods of production of the same product, while reducing or even eliminating that reliance.  Imagine if your organisation was able to operate without the need to burn coal for electricity.  What if you generated your own electricity from your own waste, so that rather than having to pay for disposing of that waste, you used it instead of buying electricity.  A cycle like this replicates how nature works in that one process output is the input to another process and therefore there is never any waste.

Discovering process changes that give you the opportunity to navigate your business through the narrow channels of environmental legislation, and developing a culture that looks for these opportunities, are vital to the long term success of your business and indeed any organisation.  While your competitors are out in the middle of the old ocean, you have seen the channels that have allowed your business to navigate the passageway along the coastline, and into what appears to be a whole new ocean of opportunities on the other side.

Of course, when sailing any yacht, a full crew dedicated to the journey is required, as there will be times when you may sail too close to the rocks.  The team’s contribution to the successful operation of your business will also mitigate your businesses environmental challenges before they have a chance to become an issue.  Your whole team therefore needs to be contributing, each in their unique way, to ensure your business’ successful “Navigation of the Passage”.