Net-Works and the Global Goals
By Jon Khoo |
Jon Khoo, Co-Innovation Partner at Interface, reflects on the recent climate change conference in Marrakech and explores how Net-Works is contributing to the Sustainable Development Goals.
Business has a key role to play in tackling humanity’s greatest challenges, such as climate change. The recent COP22 climate change talks in Marrakech, Morocco saw business continue to take on this challenge. The world saw 365 businesses and investors, including Interface, Virgin, HP and Adidas, sending a letter to global leaders reaffirming their corporate support for the Paris Climate Agreement and emphasising a need to accelerate the transition to a low carbon economy. In addition, the Climate Group’s RE100, which sees businesses commit to 100% renewable energy, has grown in the space of a year from just three companies to 83.
These actions reflect the fact that there is a strong business case for sustainability. Interface’s late founder Ray Anderson, had a mantra of “doing well, by doing good” which to me is the very essence of what this is all about. Whether it is through embracing renewable energy, rethinking logistics, or reimagining supply chains, there is an opportunity to benefit the planet, whilst still turning a profit.
Net-Works is an example of how Interface has unlocked this opportunity. It emerged from a desire to add a “social good” dimension to our supply chain – to show that it was possible to develop a supply chain that would benefit all life, combining both environmental benefits, such as waste reduction, and social benefits, such as access to finance.
There were two key aspects that enabled us to turn Net-Works into a reality: finding the right partners and finding the right issues to focus on.
Net-works combines Interface’s business acumen and sustainability connections with the conservation and community expertise of the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and the recycled yarn expertise of Aquafil. Together we have been able to develop a community-based supply chain that empowers communities and replenishes the ocean, by turning waste into opportunity. The result to date has been over 100 tonnes of waste nets removed from the ocean, 900 families given access to finance, and a healthier marine environment for over 60,000 people.
At Interface we believe that this kind of collaborative innovation is crucial in tackling climate change. Indeed, collaboration is a key part of our new Climate Take Back mission to run our business in a way that helps reverse global warming.
When it comes to finding the focus for sustainable innovation, the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) provide a great framework. The challenge is to match your organisation’s sphere of influence with the objectives that you want to achieve. Focussing on making a real contribution towards a few SDGs is likely to have a bigger impact than trying to tackle smaller parts of all of them.
Net-Works focuses primarily on the following SDGs:
SDG #1: No poverty
Net-Works began with the question: how could a carpet tile address inequality? Through the community banks that Net-Works sets up, we provide access to financial services for people in poor coastal communities, many of whom previously had no convenient way of saving or borrowing money. Now, savings or loans can be invested in diversified livelihoods, making people less reliant on fishing and giving them more ways to lift themselves out of poverty.
SDG # 12 Responsible production and consumption
Net-Works is helping reduce waste by incentivising people to collect and sell used fishing nets, which are then recycled into yarn to make carpet tile.
SDG # 13 Climate Action
Net-Works is helping coastal communities become more resilient to the effects of climate change, for example through protecting and re-planting mangrove forests. Mangroves are excellent at absorbing carbon from the atmosphere and also provide protection in the event of storm surges or typhoons, which are becoming ever more frequent.
SDG #14 Life Below the Water
Net-Works is reducing marine pollution by removing discarded plastic fishing nets from seas and lakes and by preventing nets from being discarded in the first place. It is also restoring marine environments by working with communities to manage Marine Protected Areas and to re-plant mangrove forests, which provide a sheltered place for fish stocks to replenish. By 2020 Net-Works aims to create a cleaner environment for 1 million people and better protect 1 billion square meters of the ocean.
SDG #17 Partnerships for the goals
The unique partnership of carpet company Interface, conservation charity ZSL, and yarn manufacturer Aquafil has shown that sharing knowledge, expertise and resources can lead to a truly sustainable and scalable solution like Net-Works.
Farinoz Daneshpay, Net-Works Project Manager at ZSL, gives her perspective on Net-Works and the global goals:
“Net-Works provides a sustainable solution for reducing waste (SDG 12) and protecting marine environments (SDG 14). These are two areas where, according to the Overseas Development Institute (ODI), we need a complete reversal in the current direction of travel if we’re to achieve the targets set out by the SDGs by 2030.
We’re also proud that Net-Works’ community banks are a powerful tool for supporting many of the SDGs through financial empowerment and equality. And partnerships (SDG 17) are of course, the key to Net-Works’ success. We work together with communities, local leaders, businesses and other NGOs to share knowledge and expertise, which is central in helping to achieve the global goals.“
For me, Net-Works is a great example of what you can achieve, as a business, when you consider some unusual suspects as your collaborators. It’s the mix of different ideas and expertise that create the ingredients for success. And for us as a group of partners, all with slightly different perspectives, the SDGs have given us a common framework to work within and a clear sense of where we should focus our efforts in order to be the change we want to see in the world.