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.
ABOUT TOBY HEAPS
Toby 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.