Jon Khoo, Head of Sustainability at Interface, explains why it’s time to rethink and rebalance our relationship with nature

In association with


Jon Khoo, Head of Sustainability at Interface

Earlier this year as we entered an unprecedented global lockdown to try to tackle the coronavirus pandemic, we witnessed some astonishing events with regards to our climate. We saw a pause in carbon emissions as we greatly reduced road and air travel, and as many industries and construction sites slowed or even halted production.

At its peak, the Global Carbon Project estimated that around the world, carbon emissions dropped by 17 per cent in April when compared to the same period in 2019. In a single day, that equated to around 17 million tonnes less carbon dioxide being emitted into our atmosphere. It represented the biggest carbon crash on record. The world, if only for a short time, began to heal.

For many, 2020 has reminded us of how fragile our balance with nature is and how we all have a part to play in maintaining that delicate equilibrium. If we take the built environment as an example, it is collectively accountable for around 40 per cent of Britain’s carbon emissions. We need to do all that we can to design and build more responsibly. This means that architects and designers must prioritise the use of materials that actively support the fight against climate change as we design buildings fit for a post-pandemic world.

Learning to love carbon
At Interface, we are supporting these efforts with our mission to minimise the carbon footprint of commercial spaces. This starts by rethinking our relationship with carbon. We need to stop seeing it as purely the enemy and start using it as a resource as well. By learning to work with carbon we can use it as a building block to engineer better products.

This thinking is the inspiration behind CQuest™Bio, our revolutionary new bio-based backing which incorporates carbon negative materials to help lower its embodied carbon footprint. This world-first product has been created through investment in innovation and is guided by materials science. To make the backing, we added new bio-based materials, and more recycled content. Then, we measured how these materials influence the carbon footprint. These new materials, measured on a stand-alone basis, are net carbon negative – reducing the product’s carbon footprint by around a third.

Supporting a green recovery
Our CQuest™Bio backing will be available as standard on 11 of our flooring collections, totalling 46 products, including the newly launched NY+LON Streets. Inspired by the world’s most iconic cities, as well as one of the carpet tile’s core materials, nylon, this collection uses fresh textures and patterns to encourage a new perspective on urban exploration.

The introduction of this backing is a milestone for us in our sustainability journey. To reach where we are today, we’ve spent the last 26 years learning and innovating to dramatically reduce the negative impact of our factories, transform our handling of raw materials and our products, while influencing others to adopt their own transformational goals. This started with the launch of Mission Zero® in 1996 – a bold ambition for Interface to seek to have no negative impact by 2020. Last year, we celebrated success to date and shared our Lessons for the Future, our guide to changing your business to change the future. But we’re not stopping there, our next goal is to be a carbon negative enterprise by 2040, and we’re well on the way to achieving that.

The introduction of our third-party verified Carbon Neutral Floors™ programme has been central to our work in recent years. This has seen us analyse the carbon emissions that are released at every stage of production, from raw materials and supply chain, to manufacturing, transport, use and finally end of life. The result has been a 74 per cent reduction in the carbon footprint of our carpet tile products globally. Our flooring products including carpet tile, LVT and nora® rubber flooring are carbon neutral across their entire lifecycle. The reality is, if you can create a carbon neutral product, why wouldn’t you?

Working collectively
As a manufacturer, we want to be part of a collective that’s driving real change towards a more sustainable future. We understand that we’re just one part of a much bigger picture and want to bring others along with us; empowering and helping everyone to lower their own carbon footprint.

To help inspire architects and those looking to build more responsibly, we’ve recently launched a podcast, Designing with Climate in Mind which features the leading thinkers and doers from across the design and climate world. In each episode, I sit down with an expert to discuss their unique perspectives around the latest thinking and challenges that impact our approach to design across the built environment.


Guests to have already featured in series one include Paul Rose, broadcaster and explorer;Oli ver Heath, an expert in biophilic design and sustainable architecture; climate scientist, Dr Ella Gilbert; Munish Datta from the UK Green Building Council (UKGBC); and Michael Pawlyn, founder of Exploration Architecture and co-founder of Architects Declare. If you’re looking for inspiration for your project, then please do give it a listen.

We all have our part to play in the fight against climate change. Whether it’s choosing products that have a net positive impact on the environment, working with more sustainable suppliers, or being willing to be challenged by your clients on your approach to environmental responsibility. We all must find new ways that guarantee a green recovery and protect the world around us.

Contact Details
Designing with Climate in Mind is available across mainstream podcast directories or to find out more about Interface and our work click here.