Over 25 years ago Interface became an industry pioneer in addressing negative environmental impacts. Fast forward to 2023 and Interface has cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 96% and reduced its carbon footprint by 76%. When it comes to purchasing materials, up to 50% are recycled or biobased.
“Since the beginning, we saw that it’s not long-term sustainable to continue to extract raw materials from the earth, we have got to get circular, so we were always focused on trying to find that circular model,” Director of Environmental Management and Product Stewardship at Interface Connie Hensler said.
When it comes to circular economies, South Pole's John Davis said there needs to be enough demand to push suppliers to change the way they operate. Something that is finally happening in Australia. In fact, there is not one listed or large company in Australia that doesn’t have a board addressing sustainability.
“All of a sudden Australia, the built environment, new technologies and clean technologies seem to be going from latent to ‘ok this is a really huge opportunity for us…People are starting to operate in a different way and it’s very pleasing to see,” he said.
Australia has a world-leading project-based mechanism for carbon offsetting including retrofitting buildings to make them more energy efficient, regenerating old agricultural lands with native bush and tracking methane released from coal. Importantly, these methods for creating carbon offsets are constantly being reviewed and updated.
Australia can validate that carbon can be avoided or removed from the atmosphere, however somewhere like America government policy is lacking, meaning it’s almost all voluntary for companies to make a change.
Connie said the general public is becoming “so much more sensitised” to environmental issues because they feel it hitting home.
“And I think that is going to be the tipping point in the states,” she said. “There is going to be a ground level consensus of the urgency it’s not going to come from the legislation”.
John poses the question: “What can you do, who can you work with, what can you change in your life and the way your company operates? Act with urgency. It doesn’t matter what scale It doesn’t have to be an extreme change to a green capital system, but it should be a change from the status quo”.
When considering grand architectural projects, John said it’s pleasing to see that two of the biggest emitters, concrete and steel, which are typically made with coal, are moving to green hydrogen.
“That shift is starting to happen, and the world’s industrial base is really going ‘We have to change we have to adapt to ensure as a business we are going to be around in 10 to 20 years”.
Connie believes that innovation and action will cascade into solutions for a more sustainable world. Australia’s way forward has a clear roadmap - ensuring the top polluters keep bringing their emissions down.
This podcast was brought to you in association with Interface. Listen to this episode of Talking Architecture & Design here.