Michale Gabadou, Managing Director Australia & NZ

  1. Tell us about Interface

Interface ® , Inc is a global flooring manufacturer founded almost 50 years ago. We specialise in carpet tiles and luxury vinyl tile (LVT) and nora rubber flooring. We are a company that is design lead, purpose driven and committed to become the world’s first environmentally sustainable and ultimately restorative company.

Our core area of differentiation is our sustainability strategy, created by our founder Ray Anderson. He introduced our ‘Mission Zero®’ plan in 1994, which aimed to eliminate any negative impact Interface has on the environment by 2020. To achieve this we embodied a company culture which emphasized this philosophy from employees to suppliers.

Now as we’re approaching 2020, Interface has reduced landfill by 91%, GHG emission by 96% and 88% of manufacturing sites’ are run by renewable energy.

2. What has enabled Interface to maintain this vision since inception, whereas companies are only now acting on it?

It comes down to leadership, Ray had a clear vision early on of what he needed to do, in regards to the environment and that vision allowed him to change the direction of the company. This isn’t to say he wasn’t met with scepticism, many within the company were concerned about the financial implications. But this was an area he was passionate about and wanted to lead the change.

To sustain this vision we foster a culture within the company around a sustainable and innovative way of thinking. It is important to hire people who are like-minded and share common beliefs. We also focus on using metrics to track Interface’s progress on ‘Mission Zero’, we measure our impact on the atmosphere and ecosystems from  the entire product lifecycle.

3. Key challenges Interface has encountered?

The key challenge is to continue reducing our environmental carbon footprint. At times choosing sustainable business practices can be complex and expensive, but the overall outcome outweighs this.

For us, being profitable isn’t only financial, but also about being sustainable and regenerative. Throughout our journey we have shown other companies that being sustainable isn’t incompatible with profitability.

Initially, the biggest challenge was when we embarked on ‘Mission Zero’, we were a lone voice back in 1994, limited companies were focusing on sustainable business practices. During this time our brand differentiation was obvious, and customers were able to find our value add over competitors. We’ve led the way, there’s more awareness and more companies are advancing in reducing their environmental footprints. However, we realise the reduction of our carbon footprint is not enough. We need to become restorative with a more ambitious goal our new mission of ‘Climate Take Back’.

‘Climate Take Back’ is an evolution from ‘Mission Zero’, this time focusing on diminishing carbon in the atmosphere, embracing carbon as a valuable resource and reversing global warming.

4. What does Australia need to do in encouraging carbon emission reductions?

Climate change is obvious, it’s a risk that businesses need to take into account. Boards and directors now have requirements when making business decisions and the impact it will have on the environment.

Business Communities will need to take action and form a governance to discuss issues and changes to be done. We need leaders and key industries to take a front seat and drive this need for change.

5. Tips for start-ups in incorporating sustainability into the core of their brand

To accept its a continual journey, it isn’t a 1-3 year plan, it’s a long journey. It will require business changes, innovation, redesign and supply chain modifications. Most of all, there needs to be a realisation by the whole organisation that it needs to be done and isn’t going to happen overnight.

The first few sustainable changes to an organisation are easy to do and helps with financial performance, as reducing waste saves money. You don’t need to fear the compromise of financial return for sustainable changes.

Finally, is it crucial to engaging with the employees, stakeholders, customers and suppliers who will assist you on your journey.

6. What attracted you to The Future Business Council?

In the last 25 years we have learned we can’t reverse climate change on our own, but we have learnt the impact of influence. The power of influence we have on other companies to embark on a more sustainable journey is far greater than what we can do ourselves.

That’s what we want to do through The Future Business Council and as part of ‘Climate Take Back’, to connect and influence other companies on what we have learned about on our sustainable journey and encourage them to do the same.

7. What is your call to action to other businesses?

The UN Paris Agreement in 2016 highlighted a list of climate goals participating nations sought to achieve by 2050, that is 30 years away. Our ‘Mission Zero’ took 25 years to achieve, 30 years is enough time to achieve drastic changes if businesses collectively take action.

Join us- get on the ‘Climate Take Back’, join the journey.

We are always looking to engage with other bodies, companies, industries and share our experience, enthusiasm and optimism to inspire more organisations to join us.

We are always happy to talk and share our experiences to help companies find their way.


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