Restorative Enterprises Drive New Economies

March 16, 2015

What are some key elements of new economies?

New economies mean rethinking notions of value, innovation and the purpose of business. It requires collaboration with non-traditional business partners. At Interface, we are driven by questions like: what would it mean to be a restorative enterprise? I.e. how can we create economic value while also creating social and ecological value?

Other posts in this series:

Nadine Gudz
Alexa Pitoulis
Adam Lynes-Ford
Jessica Knowler
Mandy McDougall

Check out last month’s series

One example is our global partnership called Net-Works – a collaboration with one of our yarn suppliers, Aquafil, ZSL (Zoological Society of London) and villages in the Danajon Bank region of the Philippines, home to one of 6 double barrier reefs in the world, threatened by overfishing. In the last few years, Aquafil has expanded their ability to recycle discarded Nylon 6 fishing nets into carpet fiber.

Net-Works provides a new stream of recycled content for Interface products while generating positive impacts in vulnerable human communities and marine ecoystems by:

  • Removing the nets (which can take hundreds of years to degrade) and thereby eliminating the detrimental environmental effects (eg. ghost fishing);
  • Creating a new source of revenue for local community residents, and setting up community banking associations in the local villages. This creates savings accounts for local families to help build long term, sustainable livelihoods going beyond charitable donations and one-shot beach clean ups.

How do these relate to cities?

Cities play a key role in broader systems level collaboration toward closed loop economies (e.g. regionalizing carpet reclamation and recycling). They serve as important nodes of activity facilitating material throughputs, transfer of goods and services as well as waste management.

In what ways do you see footprint reduction, product innovation, and culture change as being linked?

It is hard to separate these things. When your company’s purpose, lens, mindset and culture are all driven by sustainability, it transcends all areas and activities. For example, we will not innovate and launch new products if they don’t bring us closer to reaching our mission zero goals to get off oil and eliminate any negative environmental impacts our company might generate by 2020. Interface does not exist in a vacuum. Rather, it operates within a much larger, more powerful, and some might say unsustainable economic system. What is the obligation of a global carpet tile manufacturer to leverage its influence and collaborate with others to facilitate broader systems change? Systems transformation begins with transforming ourselves, inspiring a culture of sustainability while adopting new business models and innovations that respect the biophysical limits of Earth.

What does real wealth mean for you?

Personally, real wealth means creating sustained health, wellbeing and quality of life. From a business perspective, it means creating more holistic value opportunities. At Interface, we are redesigning our operations and supply chain to generate positive impacts in buildings, communities and society in general.

It goes back to the question of what it might mean to serve as a restorative enterprise and generate social and ecological value along with economic. It also means making products that can enhance quality of life that work in a space to foster health and wellbeing by inspiring positive connections between humans and nature. Interface believes that false notions of humans as separate from nature’s systems are at the root of industrial ugliness. Biophilic design is a huge source of inspiration for us, and it is key to making products that not only have zero negative environmental impacts but also reconnect us with the natural world.

As Director, Sustainability Strategy with global carpet tile manufacturer, Interface, Nadine drives and develops sustainability leadership through education, community engagement and innovative market solutions.

With more than 18 years experience in the fields of environmental education, community development and planning, Nadine taught in the Faculty of Environmental Studies at York University and served as a research fellow with the Institute for Research and Innovation in Sustainability before joining Interface. Her areas of focus include sustainable business strategy, organizational change and learning, materials stewardship and ecological design. Based in Toronto, she serves on a number of local and international boards and committees including the Council for Clean Capitalism and the National Advisory Panel to the Chemistry Industry Association of Canada.

Nadine is a LEED Accredited Professional and is currently completing a PhD in Environmental Studies at York University. She studied sustainable business and worked at Schumacher College in England and obtained a Masters in Community and Regional Planning from the University of British Columbia. She also holds a Bachelor of Sciences honours degree in Environmental Science from the University of Guelph. Her work on sustainability education and organizational change, including the creation of a life-size board game on sustainability has been published in the International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education and International Journal of Environmental, Cultural, Economic and Social Sustainability.

This blog is part of the ‘Voices of New Economies‘ series within Cities for People – an experiment in advancing the movement toward urban resilience and livability through connecting innovation networks.

The Voices of New Economies series is collectively curated by One Earth and The Canadian CED Network.

This series is an exploration of what it takes to build the economies we need – ones that work for people, places, and the planet. We are connecting key actors, finding patterns, noting interesting differences, and highlighting key concepts and initiatives. Together, this series offers insights into the new economies movement as it develops.