Time to celebrate education sustainability leaders

Interface’s Steve Hamilton explains why universities and colleges need to take the lead in creating a more sustainable sector

Sustainable practice is fast moving up the agenda, especially in the built environment. With this in mind, it’s vital that all organisations – including those in the education sector – take the lead in rethinking the way they operate. This includes minimising any negative impact of existing processes on their supply chain, their operations and, ultimately, our planet. 

To be true leaders in this area, it’s crucial to champion more sustainable ways of working. This means not only changing the way organisations operate, but considering new ways of evolving their working practices to exceed expectations. It entails challenging perceptions that are considered the norm. When it comes to sustainability, by looking at completely new ways of working with a restorative vision in mind, it is possible to achieve significant breakthroughs.

This is a goal to which a growing number of companies are committing, across a variety of sectors. Interface, for example, has been working for 23 years to achieve its Mission Zero target to become wholly sustainable by 2020. Since committing to this, the company has gone beyond the realms of what was thought possible, making significant progress towards its goal.

With the Mission Zero goal in sight, Interface is now looking beyond 2020 and has recently announced a replacement commitment to build on its achievements, called Climate Take Back. As a new mission to run the business in a way that creates a climate fit for life, as well as encouraging the wider industry to do so, Climate Take Back involves working towards four key objectives. These include: having zero environmental impact; championing technologies to sequester carbon positively; supporting the biosphere in regulating the climate; and leading industry re-revolution through cross-sector collaboration. Such commitments are sparking transformations across a range of areas, from the way raw materials for manufacturing are sourced, to how organisations carry out their day-to-day operations, to the procedures around waste. 

However, organisations – including universities and colleges – cannot make such a transformation without support. They need to collaborate with like-minded partners to take positive steps towards a more sustainable future, as Interface did when establishing Net-Works™. The company collaborated with the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) to launch the initiative, which helps tackle the environmental problem of discarded nylon fishing nets in some of the world’s poorest coastal areas.

These nets are collected by local communities and sold back into the global supply chain, providing the carpet industry with recycled nylon, while cleaning up endangered ecosystems and providing locals with new income streams. Since its launch in 2012, NetWorks™ has collected over 142 tonnes of waste nets to be recycled for use in Interface carpet tiles.

Universities and colleges can meet similarly bold targets by working together with each other and supply chain partners, pooling resources, sharing knowledge and skills to address a wide range of supply chain and operational challenges, all while minimising individual risk. 

By co-operating in this way, education institutions can develop a more comprehensive understanding of the wider impact of their sector and beyond, and use their expertise to take the lead in laying the groundwork for radical, positive change. 

That’s why Interface is proud to be sponsoring the Leadership award category at this year’s Green Gown Awards – which recognises sustainability best practice in the education sector. The Leadership award in particular celebrates outstanding individuals working at a senior level at education institutions across the country, who are taking ambitious steps to transform the sustainability of the sector. 

With the leadership of these individuals, all organisations in the education sector can work together and play their role in transforming and revolutionising the existing built environment, doing their bit to build a more sustainable future for the rest of society.

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Wednesday, September 29, 12PM (BST)