Category Archives: Sustainability

Carbon Canopy

Announcing Carbon Canopy – How unlikely partners are coming together to save southern forests and address climate change.


Interface announced at Greenbuild 2013 that it became a pioneer purchaser of forest carbon offsets for its Cool Carpet™ program from an exciting new source—Southern forests.

This simple announcement came after years of effort by conservation organizations like Dogwood Alliance, landowners and others to establish an innovative partnership called the Carbon Canopy.

Interface watched the project evolve from an idea supported by a grant from our Foundation and others to a successful model that protects Southern forests while reducing carbon.

This happens quite simply. Carbon credits that are generated from forest management are sold to companies like Interface and Staples, and landowners use this additional revenue to invest in FSC certification.

The partnership serves as a bridge that links these corporate buyers who want to balance their climate impacts with landowners allowing projects like the Balsam Mountain Preserve in Sylvia, NC to happen. Projects like this not only reduce carbon, but also:

  • Preserve a forest legacy for future generations
  • Support millions of forest land owners
  • Create wood and paper product options that come from responsibly managed forests

The Carbon Canopy shows what is possible when unlikely partners team up to address some of our larger sustainability challenges.

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Redesign Economy

Nadine Gudz

Interface collaborates with many organizations as it climbs Mount Sustainability. Our commitment to redesign commerce necessarily requires collaborations in communities across our value chain in order to effect the systems changes required for a sustainable society.

This year, Interface was proud to accept the invitation to join the Council for Clean Capitalism, an esteemed group of business leaders. The Council is a “think/do tank” for raising the policy bar to enable infrastructure changes for green growth. I had the pleasure of asking its founder, Toby Heaps, to elaborate on the evolution and vision of the Council.

What is the Council for Clean Capitalism and how did it start?

In 2007 I was working with some colleagues to build support for a sensible carbon price in Canada. As part of that effort, I asked a number of CEOs who had shown leadership on climate change to put their name to an editorial we were placing in “The Globe and Mail”. We were calling for an elegant carbon price as an initial supporting salvo for the 21st century moral imperative of reversing human-induced climate change. I couldn’t get a single major CEO to put his/her name to the op-ed (Every Tonne Hast Its Price).

Then in 2009, Apple, Exelon, Pacific Gas & Electric, Nike and Procter and Gamble all quit the US Chamber of Commerce to protest its retrograde climate policy. The problem is there wasn’t anywhere for these large companies to go—no home for raising the policy bar so that companies who create more value than they destroy are more valued in the marketplace.

We live in a world where the private sector plays a significant role in designing and influencing public policy. Unfortunately, the voice of business is often subsumed by traditional industry associations, which are often prisoner to the lowest common denominator of their membership.  Where things start to get interesting is when the leaders of significant corporations from across sectors bind together to articulate a stretch vision tailored to the highest common denominator, in which those who create more value are also more valued in the marketplace.

Creating this community of leaders with a high impact and pragmatic vision was and is the essence of the Council for Clean Capitalism.

The Council’s aim is to create a sustainable society by ensuring that the rules of the economy are supportive of this goal. This entails 4 I’s:

  • Information (ensuring that natural and social capital is included on core corporate and public economic financial documents)
  • Incentives (ensuring a clear path and level playing field for leaders)
  • Infrastructure (supporting enabling infrastructure for green growth)
  • Investment (unclogging the financial system so that capital can flow more readily to resource and social productivity enhancing investments)

In terms of impact we will continue to take a pragmatic high impact approach to advancing our core priorities: green buildings (speed for LEED, energy disclosure), green bonds (sovereign issues), green accounting (putting natural capital on the balance sheet), and subject to Council approval, adding green infrastructure (transmission lines to rescue stranded renewable energy assets). When we achieve success, we will seek to scale the success by writing up case studies to share with targeted forums via op-eds, The Council of the Federation, Federation of Canadian Municipalities/Big 5 Mayors Caucus, various governments in pre-budget consultations, Council of Environment Ministers, Council of Energy Ministers, the Privy Council, and significant corporate forums such as the Globe Conference.

Why was Interface Canada approached?

We specifically limited Council invitations to companies that are leading by example on sustainability.  From the spirit of Ray Anderson to the tangible progress the company has made on its Mission Zero® journey, Interface is recognized globally for blazing a trail to the gold standard for sustainable business.

The Council is currently at 10 members plus one special working group member. In the next two years we would like to grow core membership to 20 leading corporate leaders covering all sectors of the economy.

In terms of the progress reached so far, what are you most proud of? What excites you most going forward?

So far we have good reception in the corridors of power. Our first “win” was convincing the Premier of the government of Ontario to announce a significant green bonds program to be initiated in 2014. This will enable investors to direct billions of dollars toward valuable green infrastructure projects.

The 21st century Corporation is one of the most powerful forces our civilization has ever known. Initiatives like the Council and Richard Branson’s B-Team (a sort of international version of the Council) show that business leaders can shape a society where corporations are a force for good.


tobymap small_webToby is the CEO and co-founder of Corporate Knights, CK Capital and the Council for Clean Capitalism. He spearheaded the first global ranking of the world’s 100 most sustainable corporations in 2005, and in 2007 coined the term “clean capitalism.” He sits on the Sustainability Accounting Standards Advisory Board and the University of Toronto’s Environment and Finance Committee. He also is a Director at the Natural Step Canada. Toby has been published in the “Financial Times”, “The Wall Street Journal” and “The Globe and Mail”, and is a regular guest speaker on CBC. In 1998, he played centrefield for the Yugoslav National Baseball Team.

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Counting Nature’s Services

Connie Hensler

Have you seen recent articles about Natural Capital Valuation (NCV), Environmental P&L and other financial measures of environmental impact like the one titled “When will your company begin accounting for nature?” on

You should know that Interface has done this as well. Although this type of valuation is still in its infancy and is experimental in nature, it identifies which of our impacts are most important and the value to society of reducing those impacts.

So what is “natural capital” and why is it important?

Business and society freely use the services that nature provides in the form of water, land, air and others without including the cost of these services on their balance sheet. Externalizing the value of these services causes companies to under represent their financial risk if these services are interrupted through super storms, drought and other effects. Capturing the value of this natural capital on the balance sheet will help companies manage risks and drive innovation towards products and systems that are more resilient and that have reduced environmental impacts.  

The price we pay for materials is not the true cost. True cost is what Ray Anderson use to call “God’s currency.” We may pay $8 for a kg of yarn to extract the petroleum, crack and distill it, convert it to polymers, extrude it into yarn and transport that product to us, but along the way, there are environmental emissions and lost resources that are not included in the price we pay. These additional costs are borne by society. If we don’t consider the true cost of our products, we are externalizing the value of these services much like we once ignored our environmental impacts. Today we consider our impacts, work to reduce them and offset them where possible, but we don’t consider the costs to society. NCV converts environmental impacts into financial costs, which makes it more accessible to the corporate audience, other stakeholders and our customers. It’s hard to grasp the concept of a tonne of carbon, but it’s easy to understand the financial cost of the damage associated with emissions from that tonne of carbon.

How did we do it?

We partnered with TruCost to apply NCV to the impacts in two of our EPDs. Trucost calculated the natural capital cost of our products’ GWP, AP, POCP and water use based on the values and material production locations found in our third party verified EPDs. The methodology used by Trucost includes a combination of valuation techniques with things like direct market pricing, abatement cost, avoided cost, replacement cost, substitute cost, contingent valuation, hedonistic pricing method, site choice and travel cost model. You may have heard of the “social cost: of carbon. This is an example of the application of these valuation techniques to carbon emissions. While this is still a very new science in the field of economics with significant uncertainty, it is evolving, and it may soon become an accepted metric for off-the-balance-sheet risk.

What did we learn?

You know the old saying “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure?” It’s no surprise that it’s the same with environmental impacts. Five dollars for a tonne of prevention through carbon offsets prevents $120 per tonne of damage when considering the social cost of carbon. Our Cool Carpet™ program is a great investment. Last year it prevented the emission of over 344,000 tonnes of greenhouse gases, which represents over $41 million in natural capital cost. What a great investment in our environment.

We also learned the regional differences in some impacts. For instance smog emissions cause different levels of impacts in different locations. Our EPDs tell us how much those emissions are, but NCV tells us where those emissions do the most damage. This can help us with manufacturing location and supply chain decisions. We’re still studying the results of this complex valuation and figuring out how this information can help us on our journey up MountSustainability.

Who else is doing Natural Capital Valuation?

Some companies who are taking a leadership position by valuing natural capital include Puma, Unilever, Dow Chemical, Coca Cola, EKO, FEMSA, Nike, Weyerhauser, Dell and Alcoa.

Check out this report from the Corporate Ecoforum at to see how others are approaching NCV.

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Partnerships Lead to Expanded Impact

Melissa Vernon

As the African proverb says, “It takes a village to raise a child”.

As one company, we have learned we can have an influence on others.  But add additional partners and our collective influence grows exponentially.

The mission of the Center for Green Schools at the USGBC is to create green schools for all within this generation.  The Green Apple Day of Service is the action step to mobilize volunteers around the world to “transform our schools into healthy, safe, and productive learning places.” At the heart of Green Apple is the need to redesign our learning environments.  Who better to lead this effort than interior design professionals?

During planning for the 2013 Green Apple Day of Service, Interface approached the International Interior Design Association (IIDA) executive staff to discuss a partnership.  With IIDA’s existing commitment to community service and its members’ expertise in design, the association was a natural fit.  For IIDA, “design is about humanity and improving the human condition through interior environments that are effective, efficient and exceptional.” IIDA’s nearly 6,000 members were invited to join Interface on Green Apple projects, and as a result, we worked together in a number of creative and collaborative Green Apple projects across the country.

In Minneapolis, Ariane Laxo, IIDA Northland board member and designer at HGA Architects, had identified the Day of Service as a potential company volunteer event.  After being contacted by Interface, she expanded their scope and invited more partners.  HGA chose the Lighthouse Academy of Nations, a college-prep charter school in Minneapolis where nearly all students will be the first in their families to attempt post-secondary education and 100% qualify for free or reduced cost lunch.  Day of Service projects included helping classroom teachers organize their classrooms, installing carpet, building shelving, painting and more, with teachers, architects, interior designers, Interface employees, and others contributing time and talent.  Donations were collected for ceiling tiles, light bulbs, paint, carpet tiles and desks for classrooms.  While volunteering, Interface employee Ann Martin’s husband noticed that the bathroom countertops were in poor condition.  He is a millworker and recently had some countertops returned that were a great solution for the school.  He arranged for a future installation.  The cascade of good deeds spurred by the Day of Service has been inspiring.


In Portland, OR, Denise Durell, IIDA Oregon president-elect, contacted local Interface Account Executive Karen Gilroy as soon as she heard about the partnership.  Denise had a project in mind for daVinci Arts Middle School, a magnet school focused on the arts.  This Portland public school was chosen because of its tie in to the arts—young designers and artists in the making attend this highly creative school.  The goal of the Day of Service was to transform the Counseling office.  This is a space where students come to get guidance, hang out with peers, and find resources for real “teen” world issues.

More than 30 people participated and the day looked like a ‘while you were out’ design TV show.  The imagination and professional design vision from the team, utilizing donated furniture, carpet, paint, and fabric, led to a beautiful and highly functional new space.  Check out the before and after pictures in the slide show.  You will not recognize the space.


The talent, passion, and professionalism of IIDA members brought a deeper dimension to our Green Apple projects.  We thank IIDA for partnering and look forward to collaborating again in the future.

To be successful, you have to have your heart in your business, and your business in your heart.  ~Thomas Watson, Sr.

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LEEDv4 Perspectives on an International Project

Shiva Haghighi

Ebert & Baumann Consulting Engineers, Inc. is taking part in the LEED v4 beta phase by providing consulting services to certify the first office building in Germany according to the updated LEED for New Construction requirements.

The headquarter of ABG Frankfurt Holding is an  office building currently under construction in Niddastraße in Frankfurt, Germany; the construction site is located next to the city’s central transit station. The project is planned with six levels above ground and two underground levels with a total gross floor area of 15,000m2. The project building was initially designed to achieve a LEED Gold certification based on the LEED for New Construction 2009 rating system. During the assessment phase of the project, the project team made the decision to pursue a LEED-NC v4 certification as a beta test project. Despite switching to a new rating system in the middle of the design phase, the certification goal of achieving a LEED GOLD certification for the building has remained unchanged.


The major changes between LEED v4 and LEED v2009 have been discussed in great detail throughout the green building industry since the unveiling of LEED v4; however, not much has been said about how international projects are affected by the LEED v4 changes.

One major change in LEED-NC v4 that positively impacts international projects is the option to use SI units (international system of units) and the inclusion of global alternative compliance paths (ACPs).  International standards can be used in lieu of the standards recommended by LEED, provided that they have stricter requirements, which is the case for most of the standards in Germany.

One of the main driving factors in the building design was achieving the Passive House standard for non-residential buildings. Passive House requirements in Germany include, but are not limited to:

  • Specific space heating demand ≤ 15 kWh/(m↑2a)
  • Specific useful cooling demand ≤ 15 kWh/(m2a)
  • Total specific primary energy demand  ≤ 120 kWh/(m2a)
  • Blower-door pressure test result n50 ≤ 0.6 h-1

Due to the fact that the Passive House standard has strict building envelope requirements and requires detailed testing and verification, the addition of envelope commissioning to LEED-NC v4 is a beneficial addition for the project.

Additionally, some of the new concepts in LEED-NC v4 are already standard practice in Germany. Examples include metering and sub-metering building energy and water systems, as well as high acoustic performance and daylight requirements.

However, some of the LEED v4 changes are significantly more difficult to achieve for projects situated in Germany. For instance, the materials credits in LEED-NC v4 require much more work from the entire project team, and the documentation required from the worksheets and calculators provided by the USGBC is very specific, and in English.  The documents for those credits have to be translated and adjusted to German standards.

Another example is that in past German projects, any wood materials that were certified by a body other than the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) were not accepted by the USGBC for the Materials and Resources Certified Wood credit.  This has made the credit difficult to achieve at times, despite the wood materials meeting German ecological standards and criteria.  The new global alternative compliance paths under LEED-NC v4 may make credits like this easier for international projects to achieve.

There is a learning curve for certifying a LEED-NC v4 beta project, but this is true for both American projects and also projects abroad.  Thanks to stringent building standards in Germany and in this instance the Passive House requirements, the project in Niddastraße, Frankfurt is able to achieve some credits more easily than its counterparts in the US, but the language barriers and design differences can be inconvenient challenges with respect to the required documentation.

Ultimately, working on a LEED v4 beta project has been an exciting process, and Ebert & Baumann Consulting Engineers, Inc. is proud to be a part of the beta test phase.

Shiva Haghighi graduated from Purdue University in 2011 with a Master’s degree in Architectural Engineering.  She received her Bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering as well as a minor in Spanish from the same institution.  She has been a LEED Accredited Professional (AP) since 2009 and an Engineer in Training (EIT) since 2008.  Shiva began working with Ebert & Baumann Consulting Engineers in 2011, where she has had the opportunity to work on a multitude of projects in different countries, including over 20  LEED projects under the New Construction, Existing Buildings, Core and Shell, and Commercial Interiors rating systems.

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