By the mid 2000s, a number of companies were approaching Interface managers to learn how they applied sustainability as a growth platform in a competitive industry. In response to those inquiries, Interface Managing Director Jim Hartzfeld launched InterfaceRAISE, a peer-to-peer consulting service with a mission to help others develop and implement their own sustainability strategy. To date, InterfaceRAISE has helped dozens of companies globally in various industries, from aerospace to textiles.
Profit: What’s the status of corporate sustainability in the global marketplace?
Hartzfeld: The good news is that many more companies are beginning to see the deeper, strategic importance of sustainability and know they have a closing window of opportunity to have early-mover advantage in their industries. They want to create programs and progress that are real and meaningful, not just heartwarming stories of good citizenship.
Profit: What is the significance of the name “InterfaceRAISE”?
Hartzfeld: RAISE represents many things: to raise awareness, to raise prosperity, to raise customer value, to raise opportunity, to raise purpose, to raise profit, to raise responsibility, and to raise our children.
Profit: How does InterfaceRAISE work with companies?
Hartzfeld: As a guide and a mentor, we offer practical insights and advice on how to derive economic and societal value from sustainability to senior executives, management teams, and sustainability practitioners. We help organizations imagine, plan, and execute new ways of advancing their goals and fulfilling their mission—financial, societal, and environmental. We help organizations move beyond “green” by viewing sustainability as more than reducing environmental impact and compliance risk, and by helping them create an integrated sustainability strategy, generating increased competitiveness and positive results.
Profit: What is the importance of IT and metrics in corporate sustainability efforts?
Hartzfeld: We advise all clients in the importance of accurate, verifiable, and timely information as the basis for better decision-making and credible external reporting. This is a classic extension of the maxim, “You can’t manage what you don’t measure.” At Interface, we use the term EcoMetrics as a broad category of information about the nonfinancial, physical metabolism of a company. We believe that all companies need to understand their metabolism in terms of flows of material, energy, and waste—whether they’re a professional services firm, a quick-serve restaurant, or a product manufacturer. Increasingly, that quantitative information is enhanced with the qualitative “goodness or badness” of individual materials, energy sources, or processes, through processes such as lifecycle assessment. Without tangible, credible information, companies are left to engage in “random acts of greenness,” creating little lasting improvement or business value.
Profit: Where should companies interested in sustainability start?
Hartzfeld: Begin from wherever you are, and do something. Then, do something else tomorrow. Senior leaders should project a clear message of permission and an invitation to all employees to engage in the journey. Focus immediately on waste reduction and energy efficiency. In these early stages, there is nothing to lose from random acts of greenness. Then, get serious about really understanding your baseline or current state in technical and cultural terms. “Where are we now? Who are we now?” Then, you should create an integrated future vision that weaves sustainability into the core of your business mission. “What are our aspirations? Who are we becoming?” All along the journey, it is important to bring in experts from the outside with fresh eyes to help you see the emerging risks and new opportunities that sustainability can offer.