The Interface Story

        

The Beginning

After discovering carpet tile in Europe in the early 1970s, Ray C. Anderson recognised its future in modern offices. Open plan office systems were emerging, bringing with them the need to easily access flat wire and Walker duct systems—state of the art infrastructure at the time. In 1973, Ray founded Interface in LaGrange, GA, bringing the concept of free lay carpet tile to America and beginning a revolution in commercial floorcovering.

With innovations like GlasBac® backing, which set the industry standard for performance, and Intersept®, our proprietary preservative, original carpet tile products were strong on technical benefits but weak on aesthetics. It was a practical solution, not a pretty one. But that began to change in 1988 when Interface introduced Quantum—the first tufted loop carpet tile, altering the course of our business and our design capabilities. Learn more about our early history in the image gallery below.

  • Ray C. Anderson, founder and former chairman of Interface, Inc.
  • 1973 - Interface constructs its flagship manufacturing facility in LaGrange, GA.
  • 1973 - Interface introduces the Quadron method of fusion bonding, an innovative construction that allows maximum tuft uniformity.
  • 1974 - Interface introduces its structured backing system, GlasBac. It sets the industry standard for performance and is still our number one backing today.
  • 1978 - Interface introduces its proprietary preservative, Intersept, which protects the carpet tiles from mold, mildew and other odor-causing microorganisms.
  • 1979 - A proprietary sublimatic printing process creates the Velvet Series tiles in this installation at Flint Ink Corporation. We phase out printing in 1998 in favor of better performing, more environmentally responsible products.
  • 1982 - Interface acquires Compact Carpets Ltd. in Belleville, Canada.
  • 1983 - Interface acquires Tufted Carpet Tile Ltd. (Tuca Tile) of Craigavon, Northern Ireland.
  • 1983 - Carpets International-Georgia goes public and changes its name to Interface, Inc.
  • 1984 – Interface acquires Illingworth Morris and Bond Worth, forming Interface UK with the Craigavon, Northern Ireland facility. Today, Interface UK’s headquarters are located in Birmingham, England, shown here.
  • 1987 - Interface introduces System Six modular carpet to break into healthcare and educational facilities that primarily used hard surfaces. The combination of thermally-pigmented yarns, chemically-welded seams, and Intersept promised performance in high traffic areas.
  • 1988 - The lobby of what was then Interface's global headquarters, now the Joseph H. Kyle facility, features a pattern by tile installation. Ray saw the new offices as an opportunity to visually demonstrate how carpet tiles should work in the modern office environment.
  • 1988 - The acquisition of Heuga B.V. (our Scherpenzeel manufacturing facility shown here) makes Interface, Inc., the world's largest carpet tile manufacturer.
  • 1990 - The Ray C. Anderson plant in West Point, GA, begins tufting operations. The solar panels and other environmental features are added as part of a redesign in 1998.

The Epiphany

In the early ‘90s a customer asked, "What's your company doing for the environment?" When Ray realised he couldn't answer this question, he created a company task force to solve it. As he prepared a speech to the task force kick-off meeting, he read Paul Hawken’s “The Ecology of Commerce” and was deeply moved. He described the experience as an epiphany, his “spear in the chest” moment that changed his perspective on business and sustainability.

It awakened him to the urgent need to set a new course for Interface. He shook the foundations of the petroleum-intensive carpet manufacturing industry by declaring that Interface was committed to becoming the world’s first environmentally sustainable—and, ultimately, restorative—company. Hear the story directly from Ray in the video below.

Starting the Journey

Recognising the complexity of reshaping Interface to become a sustainable company, Ray formed the Eco Dream Team, which included the expertise of authors, activists, scientists, and entrepreneurs. Their progressive thinking helped Interface begin mapping the journey that Ray later described as a climb up “a mountain higher than Everest.” Mount Sustainability, as we call it, became a symbol of both the size and scope of our mission.

Interface initially identified seven key areas–the “Seven Fronts”–where it needed to progress to achieve the vision of Mount Sustainability. Then, building on that framework, we set aggressive zero targets in many areas: zero waste to landfill, zero fossil fuel energy use, zero process water use, and zero greenhouse gas emissions.

The resulting EcoMetrics looked at the material and energy flowing in and out of the company–what we took in and what came out in the form of products and waste. What’s measured is much the same today, including waste reduction, energy use, renewable energy, carbon emissions, and water use. Learn more in the image gallery below.

  • 1994 - David Oakey contracts with Interface to lead product design, coming on board shortly before Ray's epiphany. Still working with Interface today, David leads the industry in sustainable product design and continues to create innovative, award winning designs inspired by nature.
  • 1994 - Ray pulls together a group of authors, activists, scientists, and entrepreneurs who help create a framework for applying sustainability to the business. We still rely on the input of some of these environmental thinkers today.
  • 1995 - We begin reclaiming and recycling carpet tiles through our ReEntry® program. ReEntry evolves over the years as we work toward closing the loop on our manufacturing process.
  • 1997 - Interface holds its first global meeting to share Ray's vision of a sustainable future and brings together employees from subsidiaries around the world.
  • 1997 - During the global meeting in Maui, Ray compares Interface's sustainability journey to summiting “a mountain higher than Everest”–difficult, but with a careful and attentive plan, not impossible. The idea sticks, and "Mt. Sustainability" becomes the iconic name for our journey.
  • 1997 - Symbolizing unity in purpose and vision, attendees of the Interface global meeting in Maui gather to form the corporate logo.
  • 1995 - Interface initially identifies seven key focus areas–the “Seven Fronts”–where it needed to progress to achieve the vision of Mount Sustainability.
  • 1997 - Interface, Inc., publishes the first corporate sustainability report.
  • 1994 - Caribbean™ is one of the earliest products created with the Intersculpt technology that Interface acquired in 1993. Intersculpt allows us to weave yarns at high and low levels with integrated patterns, enabling the creation of highly styled products with greater efficiency.
  • 1996 - Interface begins manufacturing in Chonburi, Thailand. In 2007, the Thailand plant expands its production capability and becomes the first LEED certified building in Thailand.
  • 1997 - Interface acquires Carpet Solutions of Australia.
  • 1998 - Ray's first book details his awakening to environmental concerns–what he describes as his “spear in the chest moment”–and outlines a model for businesses to achieve sustainability.
  • 1999 - Interface offers the first online sample order system for carpet tiles.

Entering the 21st Century

Interface entered the 21st century and delivered one innovation after another. In 2000 we redefined modular carpet with the introduction of Entropy® and the emerging i2® category of products. That same year we offered the first commercial carpet collection to use recycled nylon in the face fibre and a 100% recycled content vinyl backing layer.

We continued experimenting with renewable and recyclable materials and introduced our glue-free installation system, TacTiles®. Meanwhile, our Cool Blue™ process allowed us to use a wider range of materials for our backing and become less dependent on petroleum. We also formally recognised our goal of zero environmental footprint as Mission Zero®, giving a name to the journey we began in 1994. Find more details in the captions below.

  • 2000 - Interface installs a 17-kilowatt solar array at the Kyle Plant in LaGrange, GA, to supplement traditional power sources.
  • 2000 – Interface introduces the Great Plains Collection, offering the first commercial carpet tile products to use a hybrid face fiber with a corn-based polymer, Polylactic Acid (PLA). While we no longer use PLA fibers today, it was a first step in our search for high performance, renewable and biodegradable materials.
  • 2000 - Interface introduces Deja Vu, the first commercial carpet collection to use recycled content nylon in the face fiber.
  • 2000 - Falling Water™, installed in an elementary school classroom, is among the additional products launched with recycled content fiber and a recycled content backing layer for an overall recycled content of 51-54%.
  • 2000 - Inspired by a workshop with Janine Benyus, David Oakey begins exploring the concept of biomimicry, considering natural systems to solve human problems, in carpet tile design.
  • 2000 - Entropy debuts and quickly becomes one of our best selling products. David Oakey's first biomimicry-inspired carpet tile, Entropy's organic pattern and colouring eliminates the need to perfectly match tiles. Non directional installation also lowers installation waste to an average of 1.5%.
  • 2001 - Interface launches its GlasBacRE recycled content backing created with layers of recycled content vinyl.
  • 2002 - Interface donates 72,000 carpet tiles for use as insulated walls for "Lucy's House," a project driven by Professor Samuel Mockbee and his architecture/design students at Auburn University.
  • 2002 - Interface introduces Cool Carpet™, our first carbon offset program for carpet tiles.
  • 2006 - The TacTiles glue-free installation system offers a cleaner, faster, earth-friendly alternative to traditional adhesives with an environmental footprint is more than 90% lower than traditional flooring adhesives.
  • 2006 - Interface introduces Cool Blue, a manufacturing process for GlasBacRE that gives us the flexibility to search for new renewable and reusable raw materials.
  • 2008 - Interface introduces a collection eco-friendly grass and bamboo woven floor tiles sourced from artisanal weavers in India. While well-received, it is not a market success, but it helps lay the foundation for the success of our Net-Works® program in 2012.
  • 2009 - Ray publishes his second book, "Confessions of a Radical Industrialist."

To 2020 and Beyond

Over our 25-year sustainability journey, we’ve evolved our thinking and our approach. Originally, we focused only on reducing our environmental impacts, but that evolved to include social impacts and new business models. We helped launch Net-Works®, a program that turns discarded fishing nets into supplemental income for community members and 100% recycled content nylon that we use in our carpet tiles. With Net-Works and the continued success of our ReEntry® program, we’re proving that a circular economy is an attainable goal.

With Mission Zero accomplished, we set our sights on an even higher goal—Climate Take Back™. Through Climate Take Back we will create a climate fit for life. One exciting step in that direction is the creation of our CircuitBac™ Green backing, which effectively stores more carbon in its life cycle than it emits.

We’ve also been exploring new aesthetics. We added a new dimension to carpet tile with our 25cm x 1m Skinny Planks™ and brought hard surface into the mix with our Luxury Vinyl Tiles and the addition of nora® rubber flooring. Find out more in the gallery below.

  • 2011 - Interface begins manufacturing operations in Taicang, China, earning LEED ID+C: CI Platinum certification for the offices.
  • 2012 - Urban Retreat™, our first biophilia-inspired collection, is a mix of pattern studies that range from refined textures to broad organic forms.
  • 2013 - Interface introduces Skinny Planks with Walk the Plank™, a 25cm x1m style that offers a wide range of design possibilities.
  • 2012 - Inspired by Aquafil's creative re-use of commercial fishing nets in their carpet fiber, Interface invests in the development of Net-Works, a new, inclusive business model that turns discarded fishing nets into 100% recycled content Type 6 Nylon, protects marine animals, and provides supplementary income for community members.
  • 2013 - Interface Thailand's yarn waste becomes raw materials for stuffed animals like the one shown here. Community members in the Chonburi province make and sell the animals as an additional source of income.
  • 2015 - Kari Pei, textile designer and well-known environmental champion, joins Interface. In 2019 Kari introduces Look Both Ways™, Interface's first collection combining carpet tiles and LVT.
  • 2016 - Interface's new mission–Climate Take Back–focuses on creating a climate fit for life.
  • 2017 - Interface launches its line of Luxury Vinyl Tile in Skinny Planks and squares to coordinate with Interface carpet tiles.
  • 2017 - Interface provides "Proof Positive" that our Climate Take Back mission is possible with carbon-storing carpet tiles.
  • 2018 - Building on the success of our concept carbon-storing tile, Interface debuts CircuitBac Green backing. Manufactured in Europe and available on select products, CircuitBac Green effectively stores more carbon during its life cycle than it emits.
  • 2018 - Interface opens its new global headquarters in Atlanta, GA. Base Camp, as named by employees, incorporates design features that benefit employees and the environment. Interface is seeking LEED v4 Platinum and WELL certifications for the building.
  • 2018 - Interface adds nora systems rubber flooring to our product offering, furthering our resilient flooring options with this industry leader in high performance rubber flooring.
  • 2019 - Interface celebrates Mission Zero success and releases the 25th Anniversary Sustainability Report, highlighting lessons learned and key EcoMetrics.