Essays on Is the Interface Model a Prototype Company for the 21st Century Case Study

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The paper 'Is the Interface Model a Prototype Company for the 21st Century' is a wonderful example of a Management Case Study. The Interface Model is based on the story of Interface Inc. , which is a billion-dollar company dealing with the manufacture of textiles, carpets and architectural products. Founded in 1973 by Ray Anderson, Interface Inc (simply referred to as Interface hereunder) grew from a start-up small business venture. Today, the company commands a 35% market share in the modular carpet industry and has established operations in more than 30 countries (Stubbs & Cocklin, 2008).

Its growth aside, Interface’ s mark in environment management occurred in 1994 when its founder Ray Anderson realized the need to adopt environmental sustainability as a measure of saving the planet from the wanton destruction that according to him, would damage humankind and “ the countless creatures that share with us the thin shell of a life that is the biosphere” (Anderson, 2003, p. 18). In Anderson’ s own account, he struggled with the concept of environmental sustainability right from its definition, to how the concept would be put into practice.

Notably however, Anderson was very clear on why environmental sustainability was the right thing to do despite the many hurdles. After an extensive soul searching, Anderson states that he finally drew the links between Interface and its different constituents, which include the suppliers, customers, community, and earth’ s biosphere (Anderson, 2003). Figure 1 below shows Anderson’ s conceptualization of how his company is linked to the different constituents.   Notably, and in stark contrast to some other contemporary firms, Interface does not treat environmental sustainability as an add-on to its business operations; rather, the company has made a deliberate decision to incorporate environmental sustainability in its business strategy.

Specifically, the company pursues a three-pronged business strategy. The three business strategies are I) the offsets approach, which seeks to compensate the environment for any damages that Interface causes during its manufacturing and/or distribution processes; II) the sustainable approach, which seeks to fix any probable problems at the source rather than waiting for them to take effect and offsetting them latter; and III) the restorative approach, which seeks to put back resources to the environment as one way of ensuring environmental sustainability (Stubbs & Cocklin, 2008).

Based on the three strategies, Anderson came up with the Interface Model, which he advances as the prototype of the 21st century company. In his description, Anderson states that the model is “ strongly service-oriented, resource-efficient, wasting nothing, solar-driven, cyclical (no longer take-waste linear), strongly connected to our constituencies… and to one another” (Stubbs & Cocklin, 2008, pp. 108-109). This description forms the basis for this paper’ s argument. Specifically, the paper notes that the Interface model gives priority to people and nature and is therefore a prototype of the 21st century company.

Notably, however, this paper is cognizant of the fact that that most of the concepts in the Interface Model are hard to implement especially by firms whose primary motive is profit-making. Nevertheless, it is worth observing that the model is a good prototype for any company wishing to adopt a sustainable business model.

References

Anderson, R 2003, Introduction: envisioning the prototypical company of the 21st century, In Ants, Galileo & Gandhi (Eds), Dealing the future of business through nature, genius and compassion, Greenleaf, Sheffield.

Harfold, T 2011, Adapt: Why success always starts with failure, Little Brown, London.

Hawken, P 1993, Ecology of Commerce, Harper, New York.

Meadows, D & Wright, D 2009, Thinking in systems: a primer, Earthscan, London.

Monks R.A.G 1998, The Emperor’s nightingale: restoring the integrity of the corporation in the age of shareholder activism, Addison-Wesley, Oxford.

Rust, M 2003, ‘From terrorism to trust_ trusting our nature?’ In McIntosh, M., Rupesh, S & Murphy D. F (Eds), Something to believe in: creating trust and hope in organizations: stories of transparency, accountability and governance, Greenleaf Publishing, Sheffield, UK.

Stubbs, W & Cocklin, C 2008, ‘Conceptualizing a “sustainability business model”’, Organization Environment, vol. 21, no. 2, pp. 103-127.

The Economist 2011, ‘Ingenuity is the test for the new age of man’, The Weekend Australian Financial Review, September 24-25, p. 54.

Waddock, S. & McIntosh, M 2011, See change: Making the transition to a sustainable enterprise economy, Greenleaf Publishing, Sheffield, UK.

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