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Student Number

7920IBA: Systems Thinking and Sustainability

Article Review

"With reference to the article by Ray Anderson, the current information on the
Interface website, what you have learnt on the course and have gained from
your extended reading please answer the following question: 'Is the Interface
model a prototype company for the 21st Century? If so why, if not why not?

Student number:
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Prototype companies are vital so industry can move forward with world
sustainability in the 21st Century. Interface is the role model of a prototypical

company of the 21st Century as they promote and employ elements of Zero
Discharge, reduced benign emissions, open communication, efficient
transportation and logistics, and renewable energy concepts. Zero Discharge
creates an environment in industry where waste and emissions are re-invented
through systems of recovery and are reused by either the same plant or other
manufactures as a raw material. Reduced benign emissions is process that
benefits the community through reduced pollution and also increases profits for a
company by waste reduction. Open communication shows a businesss
transparency and investment in its stakeholders, by business being open to their
operations the stakeholders feel a sense in confidence of a business operations.
Resource efficient transportation and logistics which looks at aspects of
improving air quality, using hybrid vehicles and the careful planning of
positioning factories close to their customers, results in more sustainable
logistical operations. Renewable Energy, with a strong prominence on
photovoltaic cells, creates a long term solution to the rising costs of diminishing
fossil fuels. Photovoltaic energy systems use no moving parts and convert solar
energy directly into electricity, which is the most adaptable form of power also
resulting in less carbon emissions in comparison to coal electricity. All these vital
aspects that Interface portray show signs of innovation, discovery and
development thus Interface is setting the benchmark of a sustainable prototype
company of the 21st Century.
Zero Discharge can commonly be interpreted as having zero harmful discharge
into the earths biosphere after a manufacturing or processing plant has
completed its manufacturing process (Das 2005, p. 11). An old saying of
prevention is better than cure, can accurately be used when referring to zero
discharge. Pollution prevention, over time, will only prove to be economically
advantageous to a business. The costs associated with waste treatment and
government regulations for waste disposal will outweigh the cost of
implementing new processes and procedures to prevent waste altogether (Das
2005, p. XV). Interface has adapted their policy of zero discharge, which is called
Zero waste. As described by Waage (2003, p. 23) Quality, to us, means zero
waste of any kind. Any waste is bad a mispriced invoice or a misdirected
shipment, as well as scrap or defect. Not only does the concept of Zero waste
decrease harmful discharge of unused products into the earths biosphere and
lithosphere, but it also shows a financial gain for businesss baseline. Waage
(2003, p. 23) publish that Interface saved a cumulative total to US$209 million
over the period of 1995 to 2002 and had an overall reduction of scrap to landfill
of more than 60% from the 1994 levels. With waste being estimated to be at
2.5 billion to 4 billion metric tonnes per year globally (Lacoste and Chalmin 2007,
p. 5), the worlds industrial businesss need to consider where this landfill and
waste will be located in future generations. The depletion and filling of our
landfills leaves unsightly and unwanted burdens on our future communities and
generations, thus Interface has shown a cause of being eco friendly to the
environment by producing less waste. Interface, by having a target of zero
waste are seeing huge economic gain and reducing operational costs by having
efficient operations.

Benign Emissions, smoke stacks and toxic emissions are all facets that Interface
are trying to eliminate from their manufacturing operations. As stated by Wang
et al. (2006, p. 160) ... environmental accidents, complaints, and concerns have
pressured industries to shift from the traditions end-of-pipe approaches to sound
pollution prevention strategies. Interface are reducing their smoke stacks. End
of pipe solutions are no longer accepted as a means of reducing pollution and
remaining sustainable in the 21st Century (Waage 2003, p. 23). This has resulted
in Interface reducing their 292 smoke stacks to 183. This is a 39% reduction in
smoke stacks from their operations. A reduction in smoke stacks equals a
reduction in pollutants and waste entering the earths atmosphere. As stated by
Wang et al. (2006, p. 160) Pollution represents a loss in profits during
manufacturing. By Interface reducing their pollution through smoke stack
minimisation, they will see a return in increased profits. Further looking into the
aspect of reducing emissions, Interface has acknowledged that to prevent toxic
emissions altogether we must go upstream and prevent those toxic substances
from entering our factories in the first place. What comes in will go out-as a
product, waste or emission (Waage 2003, p. 23.). To sum this statement,
prevention is better than cure. By following a process of assessing what products
come into a manufacturing process and either substituting or eliminating
pollutant products, the end waste will be minimised. As Interface has set up a
programme to reduce benign emissions they will see, over time, an improved
environmental impact that their manufacturing process have on the
environment, reduced business costs associated with regulatory needs of
pollution control, and a positive public image due to being environmentally
considerate (Higgins, Sachdev, and Engleman 2010, p. 275).
Open communication which can be referred to as the sensitivity hook up, is an
important aspect for any modern day cooperation. The sensitivity hook up
involves several factors. As stated by Waage (2003, p. 26) the sensitivity hook up
involves, new and desirable connections: service to and investment in the
community especially in education, together with closer relations with suppliers,
customers and among ourselves. Interface are knocking down the walls, instead
of hiding their operations, they are displaying them, and getting involved in the
Interface have created a completely transparent document called,
Environmental Product Declaration. Interface have published their EPDs on the
internet and state that An Environmental product declaration is a detailed report
of product ingredients and environmental impacts that incur of the entire life
cycle of a product
px>). This open communication of Interfaces EPDs shows to all stakeholders
that Interface is aware that their product can affect the community and
environment, and that they are endeavouring to reduce their damage to the
environment. Carroll and Buchholtz (2009, p. 621) report, Business has a moral
responsibility to build a relationship with the community and to be sensitive to its
impacts on the world around it. Interface, as previously stated, have a strong
interest and investment in the community, focusing on education. This interest
shows a strategic intelligence in the future employees that Interface will acquire.
For example, an investment into education for the years 1-12 grades will provide
business with better trained and skilled employees, considering that many front
line workers are primarily educated to grade 12 (Carroll and Buchholtz 2009, p.
632). Interface are investing in education, which in itself, is investing in their own

Efficient transportation and Logistics is certainly one of the most important

aspects of a modern day business. Logistics is the process that includes
transport, storage and distribution of a product. This process can be calculated
from the initial purchase or use of a raw material, storage and manufacture of
sellable goods, right through to the finished and delivered product that ends up
in the consumers possession (McKinnon et al. 2010, p. 3). Logistics and resource
efficient transportation may be one of the most complicated aspects of business
sustainability to manage. The effect of carbon burning distribution can have
serious affect, not just on planet earths well being, but on the habitants of planet
earth, primarily humans. McKinnon et. Al (2010, p. 4) state the distribution of
goods impairs local air quality, generates noise and vibration, cause accidents
and makes a significant contribution to global warming. Although this statement
can be seen as being very broad, the environmental and economical effects that
distribution of products and goods have on both businesss and the community
must be taken seriously. Interface certainly acknowledge that transport and
logistics may certainly be one of the most difficult aspects of sustainability, but
the acknowledgment of this issue is the first step in addressing this ever so
important topic.
Renewable energy could be referred as, a sustainable energy resource. A
sustainable energy resource is a product that after continued use does not cause
harm to the environment, will not affect the global populations wellbeing, and
will not exhaust the earths natural resources (Boyle 2004, p. 2). The worlds fossil
fuels that are used to create energy will run out. As stated by Boyle (2004, p. 7)
world coal reserves should last for about 200 years, oil for approximately 40
years and natural gas for around 60 years. With the depletion of fossil fuels and
world population expected to grow by 31% to 9.2 billion by the year 2050,
sustainable long term, cost efficient energy sources must be created and
implemented for business to remain competitive. Interface has started the
concept of using renewable energy. Photovoltaic cells have been integrated into
Interfaces manufacturing plant to create their first solar made carpet. Solar
made carpet has shown interest from consumers on an international level, as the
product sells in Canada and Europe (Waage 2003, p. 25). Interface has
strategically chosen this type of renewable energy with long term considerations
in mind. When Photovoltaic Cells are in use they have no moving parts, and due
to their operational design and structure, photovoltaic cells require minimal
maintenance in comparison to other forms of renewable energy (Boyle 2004, p.
66). Photovoltaic cells draw from solar energy and have a direct output of
electricity, which for commercial use is the most adaptable form of required
energy (Boyle 2004, p. 66; Randolph and Masters 2008, p. 429). The future is
what Interface are looking at, instead of looking at the here and now, they are
considering the long term future, staying ahead of their competitors, leading the
way for innovation and sustainability. Waage (2003, p. 18) reports that to know
that the present take-make-waste linear system, driven by fossil fuels, wasteful
and abusive of finite biosphere, simply cannot go on and on and on. With a
result of dramatically increased electricity prices due to the diminishment of
fossil fuels, and the dramatic incline of the world population, Interface will be

ahead of their competitors with their goal of being fossil fuel free by the year
This essay has argued that zero discharge, reduced benign emissions, open
communication, efficient transportation and logistics and renewable energy
concepts are vital aspects that a prototypical company of the 21 st century must
encompass. Zero discharge is the result of manufacturing process that has
systems implemented so that all waste is recovered and re-used as new product,
resulting in economic and environmental positives. Reduced benign emissions
reduce the toxic flow of waste directly into the earths biosphere, resulting in new
improved manufacturing processes and increased profits. Open communication
provides a link between business, community and stakeholders, resulting in
positive public image. Efficient logistics is the reduction of poor air quality, noise,
vibration and global warming, resulting in new ideas and processs being created
to improve the sustainability of transporting products. Renewable energy
concepts convey a system that uses the natural environment mixed with
scientific process to produce energy that does not pollute the earth or exhaust
fossil fuels. Therefore, Zero discharge, reduced benign emissions, open
communication, efficient transportation and logistics, and renewable energy
resources are vital aspects that Interface have in their business model, thus
supporting that Interface is the prototypical company of the 21 st Century.

List of references
Das, T 2005,Toward zero discharge: Innovative methodology and technologies
for process pollution prevention, John Wiley & Sons, Hobeken
Wage, S 2003, Ants, Galileo, & Gandhi: Designing the future of business through
nature, genius, and compassion, in R Anderson, Envisioning the prototypical
company of the 21st Century, Greenleaf, Sheffield, pp. 17-30.
Lactose, E & Chalmin, P 2007, From waste to resource 2006 world waste survey,
Economica, Paris.
Wang, K, Hung, Y, Lo, H & Yapijakis, C. 2006, Hazardous industrial waste
treatment, CRC Press, New York.
Higgins, T, Sachdev, J & Engleman S 2010, Toxic chemicals: risk prevention
through use reduction, CRC Press, New York.
Interfacefloor, Australia, Viewed 19 March 2012,
Carroll, A & Buchholtz, A 2009, Business & Society: Ethics and Stakeholder
Management, South-Western, Mason.
McKinnon, A, Cullinane, S, Browne, M & Whiteing, A 2010, Green Logistics:
Improving the environmental Sustainability of Logistics, Kogan Page, London.

Boyle, G 2004, Renewable Energy: Power for a sustainable future, in G Alexander

& G Boyle, Introducing Renewable Energy, Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp. 215.
Randolph, J & Master, G 2008, Energy for sustainability: Technology, Planning,
Policy, Island Press, Washington.