The new industrial revolution: sustainability spurs innovation

Laura Mazur and Louella Miles

You would be hardpressed to find better examples of companies which get this than Interface, the market leader in commercial floor coverings, shoe company Timberland and Stoneyfield Farm, the world's largest producer of organic yoghurt. Although they work in very different markets, the chief executives of these companies lead from the front when it comes to balancing commercial concerns with an environmental and ethical framework – and profit by doing so.

Interface founder Ray Anderson's conversion came in 1994, when he had what he calls a 'spear in the chest' epiphany after reading Paul Hawken's The Ecology of Commerce. He had been seeking inspiration for a speech to an Interface task force about the company's environmental vision. Fifteen years and a sea change later, Interface is over halfway towards its vision of 'Mission Zero'.