Interface’s sustainability manager on circular interiors

Credit: Getty | Interface is in the business of providing circular products—notably its carpet tiles
This Q&A with Becky Gordon, Regional Sustainability Manager UKIME at Interface touches on emissions reduction and climate improvements of office design

Shopping for furnishings and interiors for homes and offices has historically been a very wasteful process and is still plagued by emissions. For Interface, the key to reducing the impact of designed interior spaces is through the reduction of carbon emissions and decreasing the overall impact of the products that businesses buy for their unique spaces. 

Becky Gordon, Regional Sustainability Manager for the UK, Ireland & Middle East at Interface, a commercial carpet tile manufacturer and global leader in sustainability. Gordon has been with Interface for over fourteen years now and have worked across several commercial and sustainability roles during my time here. 

Her role focuses on the commercialisation of sustainability in the built environment and contributing to Interface’s wider sustainability strategy. No two projects are the same, and much of my role involves helping architects and designers to navigate the complexities of designing with sustainability in mind. 

Becky Gordon, Regional Sustainability Manager for the UK, Ireland & Middle East at Interface

What are the benefits and challenges of carbon neutrality in manufacturing? 

When an organisation strives to become truly carbon neutral, there are bound to be various challenges along its journey. Critically though, a business must take a holistic view of its processes – from the supply chain to manufacturing and also, the journey to the end-user. Every stage of the journey has an incremental impact, so you need to have a clear map of the full life cycle of a product.

In practice this can be challenging as some parts of the life cycle are easier to influence than others. If you’re going to upturn every one of your processes, then you need to get comfortable with being uncomfortable as you will inevitably uncover things that are trickier to ‘fix’ than others. There isn’t a ‘one size fits all’ approach to carbon reduction and the entire process is often long and complex.

In terms of benefits, the list is endless; when manufacturing becomes carbon neutral, the impact on the environment is huge. Manufacturing accounts for an estimated 16% of all carbon emissions in the UK, so the industry has a huge role to play in the push to Net Zero.

Looking at this from a commercial perspective - if you can demonstrate significant carbon reduction, your proposition as a partner is more attractive to customers as it helps all stakeholders work towards a shared goal of carbon neutrality. 

How can companies like Interface decrease impact on the environment within their factories, products, and supply chain?

In our experience, to create real, measurable change, you need to be prepared to dedicate plenty of time and resources to carbon reduction. You also need to be prepared to fail – you won’t always succeed but you need to be prepared to step out of your comfort zone and try things.

 Practically, reducing emissions across internal operations and outputs is naturally the focus and the priority, but it’s also important to consider the impact of your product once it is in your customers’ hands. This means supporting them through the full life cycle of your product – for example, Interface’s ReEntry™ Programme, is one way that we minimise the impact of our products on the environment, even after they’ve left our hands. 

What advice do you have for companies looking to reduce their impact? 

A good place to start is considering energy use - looking at where energy might be wasted, and for efficiencies and renewable options. The fact is, once you can measure it, you can manage it better. 

As a manufacturer, our biggest carbon impact is in what we make – and designing our products differently offers the best potential in reducing our total environmental impact. Turning to recycled and bio-based materials has allowed us to significantly reduce the footprint of our products. For example, changing our backing from bitumen to our CQuestBio™ bio-composite reduced the overall footprint of our carpet tile portfolio in Europe by a third.

The most important thing to remember is that all decisions should be considered through a sustainability lens (no matter how big or small). If you try to isolate reducing emissions to one for example, just your factories, it won’t create the change required. You need to think about the impact of the company holistically and empower every employee to play a part in helping the business to achieve its sustainability goals. 

Your ripple effect could be bigger than you think. Of course, your own operations are a natural place to start but that’s not the end of it - you also have the opportunity to influence suppliers and customers and innovate alongside them. By working together, you can have a bigger impact in cutting emissions, turning waste into opportunity, and protecting nature and biodiversity. 

Carbon reduction is a journey, but it’s fine to start with a few small steps like energy efficiency, asking suppliers about embracing renewables, or looking to reduce waste. It’s no easy feat, but when you’re willing to take those first strides, you’re already making a move to becoming part of the solution, rather than the problem.


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