First, do no harm.
I’ve long thought that this phrase was a part of the Hippocratic Oath, which is the pledge taken by medical doctors regarding their ethical obligations to patients. I checked, and it turns out that it isn’t actually in the oath. Still, the concept rings true. When ill, we turn to doctors with the expectation that they will heal us, not hurt us.
There is an elegance and beauty at the heart of this ethic. Moreover, the fundamental goodness of this precept is not unique to the medical profession. Why don’t we apply this ethical standard more broadly? More pointedly, why don’t we hold the world of business and industry to this standard? And what might that look like?
I think it would look a lot like Mission Zero®, the oath taken by Interface, Inc. to have no negative impact on the environment by 2020. This commitment, which my late grandfather helped to craft, involves a wide range of initiatives, including zero waste, 100% renewable energy, and an entirely closed-loop manufacturing process. It is big, it is ambitious, and its deadline is rapidly approaching.
Interface remains committed to reaching the top of Mount Sustainability. What they’ve accomplished so far is remarkable, and the company’s leadership believes that Mission Zero will be completed as scheduled. So what happens next? What’s the next mission?
It’s called Climate Take Back. And it’s the most ambitious, exciting, heartwarming, jaw-dropping, desperately-needed-by-humanity, and generally awesome thing I’ve seen in a long time.
Interface has just recently announced this commitment, and they’ve gotten some pretty remarkable publicity. For instance, you can read about it at GreenBiz here and Sustainable Brands here. I suggest that you do so, but I can give you the highlights too.
As a result of Climate Take Back, Interface will reverse climate change, create supply chains that benefit all life, make factories that are like forests, and turn dispersed materials into products. That’s an immense undertaking, and Interface knows that it cannot accomplish all of this alone. In particular, reversing climate change will require many partners standing with Interface. I’m confident Interface won’t stand alone.
First, do no harm. Interface is nearing that point. And when they reach it, they’ll have earned the right to become healers of the Earth.
Who could have imagined that a carpet company could make the planet a healthier, cleaner and more socially just place as a result of its business operations? Well, Ray Anderson imagined it. And now, many others can as well.