Sustainability as an innovation magnet

Interface FSSD Success Story

Interface Success Story

On September 12th, in the NL office of The Natural Step in Eindhoven, an important documentation of TNS work (and application of the Framework) to further sustainability was presented: the in-depth success story about Interface, Inc. – a global carpet manufacturer – and its sustainability journey.

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Interface (and Heuga for consumers) is a world leader in the transition from unsustainable practices to innovating spectacular business success by moving boldly towards ambitious sustainability goals. Its narrative is one of the most studied sustainability journeys out there today, because the company’s fearless pioneering has led to spectacular success. This started with their eco-dream team in 1995, consisting of the founding fathers behind amongst others Cradle to Cradle, Biomimicry, the Rocky Mountain Institute and The Natural Step.

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A Story Frequently Told

You can read and hear about Interface’s success story in many places. The new contribution this case study makes is that it sheds light on why and how Interface has been so successful at not just incorporating sustainability, but using it as a platform to drive transformational innovation and profits.

Three key elements can be distilled from this case study:

  1. Interface has an extremely bold and inspiring vision that integrates sustainability at its core.
Interface has an intimate understanding of their own ‘gap’ between where they stand today and full sustainability – i.e. of the challenges they must overcome in order to achieve their vision of success.
  3. Using a framework that helped its people understand strategic sustainability, Interface has made very smart business decisions in bridging the gap between its current reality and its vision. The company understood bridging that gap would require transforming its business models, operations and products. Doing so has helped them reap a diverse range of benefits including cost savings, innovation, higher sales, improved brand reputation, etc.

The actions Interface has taken are only visible in hindsight. The power in studying them comes from understanding how these actions were thought of and selected in the first place. What is the framework, or mental model, the company has used to direct its thinking and choices?

Applying the Framework for Strategic Sustainable Development

The keystone of this approach has been the Framework for Strategic Sustainable Development (FSSD), also known as The Natural Step Framework. It has provided Interface with a manner of moving towards its vision that is both strategic and step-by-step, both long-range and short-term.

We are partnering with The Natural Step – an international strategic sustainability Think tak and, non-profit, NGO. Together, we help guide decision-makers in business and the public sector towards sustainability AND overall success. In order to do so we apply and share the rigorous, proven method for sustainability planning that was developed by TNS, in cooperation with academics, municipalities and businesses from around the world, through long practice over the past 25 years.

TNS was there at the start of the Interface sustainability journey, supporting its people as they worked towards understanding as clearly as possible their sustainability ‘gap’, and how to bridge it. Two decades after that journey began, we’re excited to share the story of why and how Interface has achieved its outstanding success, with you.

You can download the full success story (.pdf) by clicking here:  The journey of a lifetime – The role of The Natural Step in Interface’s path towards Mission Zero (English) or from The Natural Step NL in Dutch

Credit: The TNS Local office in The Netherlands (formerly also known as The Flexible Platform). Interested in courses we create and deliver in partnership? See our News or twitter feed for new events, or check out the TNS NL or TNS International website.


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