Beyond the Build


Becoming a Restorative Enterprise

Recently, I spent an afternoon with the John Bradford, the chief innovation officer of Interface carpet. I can only say, “Wow,” to everything they’re doing and how they’re doing it.

Interface was founded some 4 decades ago by Ray Anderson, a visionary in the carpet industry who, among other things, developed the concept of carpet tiles. (At the time, most commercial carpet was manufactured in rolls.) More importantly, Ray and the company he built took a stance on sustainability before it became a fashion statement. He was an example of what can be done if the status quo is challenged. I believe Mr. Anderson’s quote from about 20 years ago puts the whole thing in a nutshell:

I want to know what we’ll need to do to…make Interface 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?

This type of thinking is now almost a requirement for what I call “leadership companies” and organizations.

As I viewed the recycling facility at Interface, it seemed like an endless supply of worn-out, dirty carpet harvested from commercial uses and hospitality from across the US. Yet it was waiting to be processed into something useful, rather than becoming capacity of a landfill. John shared a lot of what’s going at Interface that afternoon, and in particular I found The NET effect and Carbon Canopy interesting.

I can go on and on about my visit that day, and I probably will in a future post or two, but suffice it to say Interface is doing it right and, more importantly, for the right reasons. They have gone way beyond the status quo of the past, by recycling millions of yards of nylon carpeting and backing into new product for another life.

[Image Credit: Interface Net Effect]

Merrill Stewart Jr.

Merrill Stewart is Founder and CEO of The Stewart/Perry Company, a commercial building contractor based in Birmingham.