A Business Practice Worth Spreading?

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Prototype of SDG Carpet tile, with author (Left), Sustainability Manager (Centre), and Vice President of Operations (Right) from Interface Thailand.

If the world wants to achieve the SDGs we need to have everyone on board, all pulling in the same direction. On 16th March, we visited a private sector partner to listen to their sustainability story. Initially, we met at the Responsible Business Forum in Singapore, and while eating M&Ms printed with the SDGs we joked about printing the SDGs on the carpet for additional advocacy and awareness building. A couple of phone calls, a drive to the factory, and once there we were presented with the first prototype carpet tile: SDG1 End Poverty.

The visit started with the inspiring story of their founder Ray Andersen, who after reading a book by Paul Hawken, changed his views around the purpose of running a business and pivoted to focus on sustainability. Year by year they made great progress and Interface was ultimately ranked third for “the 2017 Sustainability Leaders”. His TED talk in 2009 has been viewed by almost 1 million people where he proposed the ‘environmental impact’ equation. This is a fantastic approach to advocacy for sustainability. The history of the company is so well communicated to staff and visitors and leaves everyone inspired to think of how they can contribute to achieving sustainability.

Afterwards, we were introduced to how a sustainable business can be operated in a comprehensive manner. 7 steps such as waste management, carbon emission reduction, social development, and business innovation were presented. The eco-friendly product creation, for example, was a change from using glue as an adhesive to more human health friendly alternative substances, explicitly illustrates how Interface is highly committed to sustainability.  Not only in methods of production, their factory structure is compliant with the LEED standard which amounts to a healthy, highly efficient, and cost-saving green workplace.

The SDG carpet tiles will be made and distributed to some of our offices in Asia Pacific. More importantly, we hope that other companies and enterprises get as inspired as we did today and make the change that is needed.

What started as a joke to make “SDG carpets” lead to this inspiring visit and hopefully, future cooperation in sharing experiences, advocating together for the SDGs, and inspiring others to work for sustainability.

Patrick Haverman is a Regional Partnership Advisor in UNDP BRH.

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