As corporate social responsibility becomes more important to businesses in terms of staying competitive, businesses are quick to put labels such as ‘carbon neutral’, ‘recyclable’, ‘natural’, ‘fair-trade’, ‘organic’ and ‘environment friendly’ on their products to gain market share. While Interface, a floor company, is one of many businesses to claim taking measures toward corporate social responsibility, they are one of the few that recognize that true corporate social responsibility cannot be measured with just one label. Interface can be considered a truly ethical company and serve as an example to others aiming for corporate social responsibility because of their efforts and goals that concern human rights, labor standards, the environment and ethical practices. This paper will first discuss Interface’s efforts in the aforementioned areas and how they are positive ethical examples; then an analysis of Interface’s corporate social responsibility in terms of the ethics principle of consequentialism will follow.
Interface is the world’s largest manufacturer of modular carpet that designs flooring for a variety of commercial environments including corporate, healthcare, education, retail, hospitality and government. In 1973, Ray C. Anderson saw a need for flexible floorcoverings in the modern office environment, and he led a joint venture between Carpets International Plc. (a British company) and a group of American investors to design and sell modular soft-surface floorcoverings. After meeting the needs of the mid-1970s’ office boom, modular carpet tile continued to grow in popularity and Interface reached sales of $11 million in 1978. In 1983, Interface went public. Over the years, the company’s growth has been perpetuated by over 50 acquisitions, including Heuga Holdings B.V., one of the world’s oldest manufacturers of carpet tiles. Fast-forward to the mid-1990s; with a rapidly growing company, Chairman and CEO Ray Anderson realized that a shift from industrial to sustainable practices without sacrificing business goals was both necessary and possible. Anderson also wrote a book, Mid-Course Correction, in which he discusses his awakening to environmental concerns and presents a model for businesses to achieve sustainability. In 2003, Interface entered the residential market with the introduction of FLOR. Today, Interface is the world’s leading producer of soft-surfaced modular floorcoverings, with sales in 110 countries and manufacturing facilities on four different continents. Their current vision, called Mission Zero™, is: “To be the first company that, by its deeds, shows the entire industrial world what sustainability is in all its dimensions: People, process, product, place and profits — by 2020 — and in doing so we will become restorative through the power of influence”.