How can design make an attempt to reduce the negative impact on the environment?
THE BIG QUESTION
A mission to reduce the negative impact on the environment. A gradual but comprehensive shift from linearity to circularity.
Driven by its founder – Ray C. Anderson’s vision, Interface Inc., the world’s largest and foremost manufacturer of modular carpets, is on a long running mission to reduce the negative impact its product has on the environment to ‘Zero’. Aptly titled – ‘Mission Zero’, the program, in addition to process innovation and a gradual but comprehensive shift from linearity to circularity at all levels, runs Re-Entry programs globally, that focus on the re-use and re-purposing of their product, by installing business structures that create livelihood for marginalized groups of the region. For the activation of the Re-entry program in India, Interface partnered with Idiom.
The first phase of the project looked to investigate the ‘post first use’ world of the product. An exploration into the product’s journey, the various stakeholders who get involved along the way, the resulting value stream, and associated marketplace environments, to ascertain the existence and viability of a market for pre-owned carpets.
The second phase aimed to develop a stable commercial entity, configured like a social enterprise - a processing-sale-service unit, selling pre owned modular carpets, by establishing a value chain that was socially equitable, providing opportunity for upskilling and upgrading livelihoods, to marginalized groups. In successfully doing so, the enterprise would become the primary channel and market link for the Indian Re-Entry program.
100,000 sq mts of carpet can be kept out of landfills every year
by pushing it into the Reuse, Repurpose & Recycle model
Feet on the ground research unearthed a value stream which was vibrant and alive, yet, almost completely invisible. The very existence of this value stream suggested that the product, post first use, was indeed getting consumed; we just had to find out who by, and where. After further exploration and extrapolation, Idiom created a hypothesis suggesting positive market potential, including the design and detailing of a supporting value stream.
Idiom undertook to pilot the social enterprise. This involved varied application of design:
Business Design: Crafting the value proposition for all stakeholders, building out the value stream, identifying channels, creating partnerships.
Process innovation: Idiom and Interface partnered to develop a carpet cleaning and rejuvenation process that was cost efficient, utilized local natural resources, and produced ‘No-Voc’ effluent. The process was fine-tuned over the course of multiple trials and lab tests. a group of five young men - daily wage waste pickers, we trained in carrying out this process, along with pre and post servicing requirements.
With a sound process in place, Idiom piloted the processing unit and business for a period of 6 months, generating multiple design outputs along the way, including equipment (Product Design) for processing and marketing material (Visual Communication). Over this duration workers and trainees were gradually sensitized to the producer owned model, with the goal of complete transformation to a social enterprise in the near future.