Interview - Coffee Break with Aidan Mullan

18th Nov 2019 • Enrichment

If you're interested in high design and low footprint, keep reading. Interface is a global commercial flooring company helping the planet one carpet tile at a time. They have the lowest carbon footprint in the industry and are known worldwide for their sustainability credentials. Interface cater for the corporate, hospitality, healthcare, and education sectors.

Aidan Mullan is the Engineering and Sustainability Manager for Interface Australia & New Zealand. He kindly took some time out to answer a few questions for us.

Can you tell us about your role at Interface?

I believe I have the best job in Interface, Australia. Yes we make beautiful flooring. Yes, we sell fantastic design but what really gets me out of bed in the morning is the “purpose” that is embedded in the Interface DNA. A large part of my role is driving sustainability programs to eliminate waste and reduce carbon footprint as part of our Mission Zero and Climate Take Back initiatives. I relish the opportunity to share the lessons learned on the way to achieving our Mission Zero goals through workshops, lectures and mill tours.

As Engineering Manager, I get to “walk the talk”, substantially reducing energy use throughout the factory and next year captured rainwater from our factory roof will supply one hundred percent of our process water needs.

Designing, installing and commissioning Australia’s first real carpet recycling process, located in Sydney, has been one of my most satisfying achievements.

I am currently working with key stakeholders to make access to renewable gas a reality in Australia.

What lead you here or what inspired you to work in this field?

Not sure I can say I was inspired. I started my career as a Chemical Engineer in the petrochemical industry but have never been defined by my profession. I guess I’ve always had a strong social conscience, instilled in me by good parents and inspirational teachers at an early age. Being raised in rural Ireland gave me a real love of nature and an appreciation of how all life is connected. It also made me aware how delicate that balance is and how easily we can negatively impact our environment through ignorance.

Can you tell us about Mission: Climate Take Back? What does it entail?

In 1994, Interface began an awe-inspiring journey called Mission Zero®, aiming to eliminate its negative environmental impact by 2020.

Just last week we announced that “We Did It!”. Now, 25 years later, Interface celebrates Mission Zero success and one key lesson learned is that doing no harm not good enough, we must be restorative.

In 2016 we started thinking about our new bolder mission. We surveyed all our employees and they told us: “Whatever we do it needs to be as daring and as bold as Mission Zero was in 1994”.

When Paul Hawken heard that, he told us: “Your employees are right. You have positioned yourself as a leader on sustainability and you need to continue. Paul also said to us The big challenge is Climate Change as we know, but we have the technical solutions to reverse it. We just need resolve and leadership to tackle it”.

This is when we launched Climate Take Back, our new mission. We believe that if humanity has changed the climate by mistake, we can change it back with intent. This four pillar plan details how, with radical collaboration, we can take carbon back and make a climate fit for life.

What is next for interface?

Well we have achieved our Mission Zero goal. All our products are whole lifecycle carbon neutral, and we have established our ReEntry process in Australia.

Climate change and loss in biodiversity remain the greatest challenge of our time. Looking forward Interface will continue to lead with purpose. CEO, Jay Gould, recently announced that Interface will be carbon negative by 2040 and next year the company introduces the first carbon negative carpet tile to the commercial market. By creating a ripple effect Interface will continue to inspire others to join us. This ripple effect has taken on a life of its own, making positive impacts at a scale we could never achieve alone.

Can you tell us something most people wouldn’t know about you?

I like manual work, it helps me relax. I’ve never eaten KFC and just because I am Irish it doesn’t mean I like to drink a lot or enjoy Irish jokes.