Interface, in a collaborative partnership with the Zoological Society of London, commits to scaling and replicating their model of recycling discarded fishing nets for use as a secondary raw material in carpet production.
They commit to establishing Net-Works as a viable business model that is financially self-sustaining, meaning that each Net-Works collection hub is supported 100 percent by the price paid for nets collected. ZSL and Interface will work together to fine-tune the financial model utilizing their respective expertise in livelihoods and commerce, and ZSL will work with the local partners and community organizers to evolve the collection model to ensure that nets are fairly traded. Currently, Net-Works is feeding used nets into a recycling process at Aquafil in Slovenia, where it is being recycled into nylon yarn that is in turn being purchased by Interface as the primary input for its carpet tile products.
A replication model will be established that can scale effectively, and demonstrate this by creating three new collection hubs in three different locations in three years. This, in turn, will lead to at least 250 percent increase in their collection rates (from two metric tons per month to five metric tons per month). ZSL will develop a Net-Works toolkit to establish a simple replication model and field test this in the three new collection hubs. Interface and ZSL will review the hubs to help with the calibration of this new toolkit. The toolkit will be offered online and in print and will provide is a step-by-step guide for implementing Net-Works. This will include guidance on: feasibility and scoping studies, community banking operations, business model design, net collection logistics, baling, exports, and monitoring & evaluation. The toolkit will be available for use by organizations wishing to implement Net-Works in new locations.
This commitment will support and strengthen over 500 hectares of community-based Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in Net-Works regions, restoring the biodiversity of the aquatic ecosystems. ZSL will develop and consolidate MPAs with local partners in the Philippines and Cameroon. There will be two new MPAs, and four existing MPAs will be strengthened by the expansion. Net-Works will provide a form of revenue for the community organization that is responsible for managing the MPA and Net-Works community banks will provide a platform for engagement in marine conservation. Practical steps for strengthening these MPAs involve effective enforcement, community-based management through trained MPA management councils, training, and support for local fish wardens and integrating MPA management into local government plans and budgets. The integration of Net-Works into MPA management is underway and will be a focus during this commitment.
The community banking model builds social resilience within communities and MPAs build ecological resilience; this is part of an innovative approach to sustainable financing of community-based conservation actions.
By 2020, this commitment will engage at least 10,000 people in Interface's social supply chain, which will provide opportunities for them to generate additional income and increase savings. Their participation will sustainably change their behaviors, disposing of fishing waste in ways that are safe for the natural environment. Reaching 10,000 people will be accomplished through: development of the replication model (toolkit); dissemination of the Net-Works toolkit (number of downloads, number of implementing agencies, number of Agreements/MOUs); and providing an evidence base through reports and peer-reviewed scientific papers (number of publications, presentations and workshops).
The action plan is scoped based on geographic expansion into three additional hubs in three years.
2015: Expansion into additional collection hub in the Philippines and Lake Ossa hub in Cameroon become operational. Metrics will be updated quarterly and will include:
number of collection sites, number of people directly involved in the supply chain, and kilograms of nets collected.
Tool Kit will be launched in Q2 2015
2016: Expansion into additional hub becomes operational. Metrics will be updated quarterly and will include: number of collection sites, number of people directly involved in the supply chain, and kilograms of nets collected
2017: Other organizations start replicating Net-Works using Net-Works manual/toolkit and feeding into the supply chain.
2015: expansion will include MPA integration in these sites, Metrics will include: # hectares of MPAs, number of Net-Works communities with official legal status of an MPAs, number of MPA management councils, and number of trained enforcement officers, e.g. fish wardens.
Annual: Biological surveys implemented annually with measurable improvements in marine biodiversity by 2018.
2015: Internationally recognized measures of MPA effectiveness implemented with data collected and documented improvements each year.
20 years ago this August, global carpet tile manufacturer founder Ray Anderson, an avowed capitalist and entrepreneur, experienced what he called a 'spear in the chest epiphany.' A realization that he and his petroleum intensive company, while successful, was contributing to the decline of the environment. He convicted himself and fellow modern industrialists as 'plunderers of the earth' and challenged the Interface global family, some 3,500 people strong today, to find a way to do business in a way that would do no harm to the biosphere and take nothing from the earth's crust that was not rapidly renewable. Ray became a hero of sorts, first among environmentalists and eventually among his fellow industrialists, as the modern corporate environmental movement began to take hold. Sustainability created a new kind of culture at Interface, and as Ray became an evangelist for a kinder and gentler brand of capitalism, Interface emerged as an innovator, reinventing both processes and products to bring the company closer to what they now call 'Mission Zero', a promise to diminish the company's negative footprint. The more Ray learned, the more he was convinced that Interface could not only become sustainable, but restorative. Net-Works is a bold idea that steps outside of the 'business as usual' mindset and gives a glimpse of what restorative might mean.
Among the many challenges facing Interface in eliminating its environmental footprint is phasing out virgin raw materials, particularly petro-chemically based inputs like nylon, the primary feedstock of carpet tile.
In 2012, Interface and Zoological Society of London (ZSL) piloted a unique partnership to reinvent the company's supply chain for nylon that is having far-reaching positive impact on marine and freshwater conservation and poverty alleviation. Net-Works is an inclusive business that provides an additional source of income for fishers and community members in Central Philippines and, soon, in Cameroon. There, villagers are engaged in gathering a ubiquitous waste product, discarded fishing nets, and bringing them to Interface's yarn supplier, Aquafil, who developed nylon recycling technology.
There are now two collection hubs, with 14 active collection sites and over 300 people directly engaging in Interface's supply chain while collecting over 32,500 kilograms of discarded nets as of June 2014, a number that is particularly encouraging given the two natural disasters that hit these areas in the Fall of 2013. The program will expand to an additional collection hub in the Philippines and on the shores of Lake Ossa in Cameroon in 2014.
Net-Works is closely integrated with local community banking systems that support and strengthen the local developing economy. Community banking empowers village members to take part in forms of micro-banking, savings, and loans for the benefit of both individuals and the community. Community members have already taken out loans to use for education needs such as school supplies and courses for children, and to develop business opportunities in more sustainable ventures such as seaweed farming.
The challenge is now three-fold: To develop the funding and infrastructure to expand Net-Works, to make Net-Works financially self-sustaining, and to create a model for inclusive business that is scalable and replicable. This is important because Net-Works has the potential to work in fishing areas around the world, and because the nylon from reclaimed nets is a clean source of post-consumer waste, it has the potential as a feedstock for many other products and applications, from nylon to other plastics. To that end, Net-Works can become a supply chain alternative to many types of manufacturers worldwide, producing jobs (for fishermen and the women of the villages, who are typically isolated from other work), building community wealth and a model for how inclusive business can work to bring both the environment and society into the supply chain.
It would be helpful to find a shipping company that might be able to assist in the future with assisting Interface ship nets from their country hubs. They have a working solution for the Philippines as is, but there is the potential as Interface scales to seek to reduce costs here and divert them to benefitting the communities they work with.
Interface is looking to collect socioeconomic and operational data through an electronic system such as Open Data Kit. They are at a stage now where they would benefit from a contact who is a provider or user of such software/hardware.