It all started 20 years ago, when most of the world paid little attention to complicated sustainability issues and were not particularly concerned about the consequences of our actions on the planet. The founder of Interface (the parent company of Heuga) Ray Anderson, then decided after reading a book that profoundly touched him, to completely change the course that the company was following. Since then policy has been aimed at becoming a fully sustainable enterprise by 2020, and even be restorative, putting back more than we take out from the environment and the community. At Heuga we call this Mission Zero.
Although Ray passed away in 2011, his vision has inspired many other people to change the way they operate to this day. Authorities, suppliers, the business community, and architects; an increasing number of people are becoming convinced of the necessity to change the way we relate to our planet and its raw materials. Our own employees are also working with great devotion and dedication on Mission Zero every day. Read more about our pathway to 2020 and some of the many sustainable initiatives and innovations that Mission Zero has brought us below.
With the development of new products, one of the aspects we bear in mind is the natural world and how we can learn from it to arrive at more sustainable products and processes. This principle is also called biomimicry. Accordingly, we developed TacTilestm, our adhesive-free installation system. These small transparent and adhesive plastic squares are inspired by geckos that can run across a ceiling. The structure of their feet served as inspiration for the stickers that are now used to firmly join the corners of the tiles to each other. Not only is no more adhesive needed, which improves the indoor climate, also no toxic substances are released, the tiles are easier to lay and remove, and the carpet tiles are easier to recycle.
Another example is the development of our Really Random, collection, where our designers asked themselves how the natural world would design a carpet tile. They came up with a solution by literally going down to the woods. They translated the colours and patterns found on the forest floor into a design, and that is how the Really Random collection was originated. Thanks to the random design the tiles can be laid in any direction which makes installation easier and faster, while cutting waste is kept to a minimum.
Mission Zero not only concentrates on avoiding a negative impact on the environment, it also strives to make a positive contribution to society while supporting social communities. In cooperation with the Zoological Society of London and yarn supplier Aquafil, a start was made on collecting discarded fishing nets floating around in the sea and on the beaches and use it again as a raw material for new carpet tiles in the Interface collection. This project was launched in 2012 in the Danajon Bank area in the Philippines with the focus on the one hand on reducing the growing environmental problem of discarded fishing nets in a number of the world's poorest coastal communities, while also finding a suitable waste material flow for our ambition to recycle more nylon yarn.
The project also improved the livelihood of the local fishermen and the people collecting the nets. Community banks were set up, so among other things the income gained from the collection of the nets could be safeguarded. This means that people can save money, or in difficult times take out a loan or small-scale insurance policy to support their families.
Besides the fact that our factories in Europe have already been using 100% green energy for many years, since January 2014 our production site in Scherpenzeel has only been using gas that originates from the fermentation of fish and other waste from the food industry. This biogas is produced in Spakenburg, just 35 kilometres from Scherpenzeel, and is certified as green.
Besides 100% green energy, since January 2014 our factory in Scherpenzeel has also been running on a closed water loop system. This means all the water used during the production of our carpet tiles is recovered, purified and re-used. The introduction of this system has seen our water consumption fall by 95% since 1996.
Another example of sustainable production is the ultrasonic cutting technology developed by us in 2008. This is an inventive manner of cutting carpet tiles based on ultrasonic technology used in aviation by companies such as NASA. Thanks to this new method production waste has dropped by 80%, representing savings of no less than 310 tons of waste a year!
Others of the many initiatives at our factory include the insulation of machines to combat heat loss, the installation of high performance boilers and the use of low-energy LED lighting.
Like many other companies we used to rely solely on trucks and container ships to transport our products. Switching to cleaner transport methods such as transport by train and barge has enabled us to considerably reduce our CO2 emissions. We also try to organise our transport as efficiently as possible, for example by sharing transport space with other companies. In the Netherlands, where we have adopted this approach, trucks are now 85-90% full on average.