What it means to be a restorative business

Published on: 
14 Nov 2013
Melissa Vernon

With our recent participation in the Green Apple Day of Service and an inspiring Greenbuild show in Philadelphia before us, we’ve been reflecting on emergent trends in the world of sustainability. Of the many conversations out there—the role of partnerships and collaboration, materials transparency, social impact, design and health and resiliency—it’s the social impact, the concept of becoming a restorative enterprise that resonates most with us.

And it’s not a foreign concept for us. A question posed by our founder Ray C. Anderson in the late 1990’s set the stage:

 “I want to know what we'll need to do to make our company a restorative enterprise. To put back more than we take from the earth and to do good for the earth, not just no harm.  How do we leave the world better with every square yard of carpet we make and sell?”

For Interface, it’s understanding that we cannot accomplish this alone. This, in turn, drives us to explore innovation through collaboration. And this means forming new partnerships and asking questions, like:

  • How can we create economic value in a way that also creates environmental and social value?
  • How can we design our value chains to address some of the world’s biggest problems?

At Greenbuild we will be focusing on Net-Works™, an Interface driven program that aspires to be restorative. Net-Works sources post-consumer nylon from abandoned fishing nets from threatened coral reefs in the Danajon Bank in the Philippines. Net-Works aspires to be restorative by creating opportunities for communities to build local economies that are socially and ecologically beneficial. The success of Net-Works has been shaped by key partnerships and the goal of addressing social issues while improving our business/supply chain.

Another aspect of what it means to become a restorative enterprise is our partnership with Green Apple. Joining with thousands of others around the world to “transform our schools into healthy, safe, and productive learning places,” reconnects us to the world we live in and empowers us to create change to leave it, and its residents, in a better place.

Through Green Apple, local communities find socially and ecologically beneficial solutions for educational environments. These projects can’t be tackled alone so we chose to partner with many organizations to broaden our impact. We worked with local USGBC chapters and invited members of the International Interior Design Association (IIDA) to leverage the power of design to create better learning environments. Who better to lead this redesign than professionals in interior design? Manufacturers, including furniture, paint and fabric industries, joined us to donate products and services to transform educational spaces and inspire our youth.

Interface associates supported Green Apple globally, planning projects with schools and learning organizations, including:

  • installing carpet to brighten up classrooms from Brooklyn to Minneapolis, Detroit to Portland, Philadelphia to Georgia, and Austin, Texas to São Paulo, Brazil;
  • educating youth in Northern Ireland, France, the Netherlands, and Albuquerque on sustainability and our Net-Works project in the Philippines;
  • partnering with Lipscomb University and Lipscomb Academy Elementary School’s Green Team to teach the Nashville community about gardening;
  • Maxwell High School students (Atlanta-area) studying architecture and interior design participated in a design charette, in partnership with IIDA Georgia and Teknion;
  • Leading the Singapore Chinese Girls School’s Environment Club in dumpster diving and a conversation on waste and recycling;
  • Landscaping and building picnic tables at West Point Elementary school near the Interface factory in Georgia;
  • Jazzing up the Whitesville Road Elementary School’s (GA) media center with new carpet and creating a reading area;
  • Repurposing display rugs from FLOR stores across the country; and
  • Sharing our experiences about sustainability with the Paraisópolis favela, the largest favela in São Paulo, Brazil.

 Advancing sustainability is often seen as a technical problem with solutions led by engineers, architects and scientists. But we know that sustainability is equally about the human journey, and the Green Apple Day of Service has been a terrific opportunity to connect with that human element. Ray Anderson often illustrated the importance of sustainability through a poem called “Tomorrow’s Child”, written by former Interface employee Glenn Thomas. The Green Apple Day of Service is an expression of our commitment to restorative business, leaving the world a better place through inspiring and healthy spaces for learning, educated youth, and tackling global social issues.

“At Interface, our restorative mission inspires us to leave a positive social impact in a way that is good for our business,” said John Wells, president of Interface Americas. “Community outreach projects align with our sustainability mission, which considers our impact on the environment as well as on our communities.”

We look forward to discussing what it means to be a restorative business with you in Philadelphia. You can find us at Greenbuild at Booth 1213 and join us for special in-booth events: http://blog.interface.com/join-us-at-greenbuild-2