Want more ambitious sustainability targets? Think American

Last week I was been chairing our CSR reporting conference in Brussels

One of the speakers, Ramon Arratia, European sustainability director for Interface, the B2B carpet company, said something very interesting.

European executives, he suggested, can be just too cautious on ethical business targets.

As a Spanish executive who worked five years at Vodafone and now works for a US firm, he speaks with some knowledge.

When setting sustainability targets, says Ramon, Europeans might suggest a 40% cuts target, and perhaps even cut that down to 20% in caution.

But American colleagues, (such as the founder of Interface, Ray Anderson) are sometimes much more ambitious, and pitch for 100% cuts in, for example, carbon.

Being so ambitious, they might not get there, but they might get 80% of the way, suggests Ramon, whilst the cautious Europeans could still be stuck on their 20-40%.

No-one likes generalisations, but American business is known for its consistent ambition.

Is it time to apply more ‘big picture positive thinking’ to your firms ethics targets?


  1. Anonymous

    100% cut? This is an unethical and unsustainable claim.

    Americans perhaps need to do the maths.
    You cannot even live with a 100% carbon cut.

    So perhaps they are reducing controllable carbon, off setting and all that BUT any claim by a business that they can / will / are suggesting a 100% cut is just greenwash.

  2. Hi, Toby here. Thanks for your comment. My point, and the point of the person I quoted, was about ambition, not 100% cuts per se. Perhaps I should have said 90%. The point still stands though, I think…

  3. Dermot Murray

    I'm not sure you'll find too many American companies making such bold projections – with the exception of notables like Interface, Timberland, GE, etc. Most traditional US companies are only coming to terms with sustainability while European companies have been more visibly setting these objectives over the last 5 years. So I'm not sure the American model is the one to follow here!

  4. Hi Dermot,

    I wasn't suggesting the American 'model' should be followed here, just the ambitious thinking. Consider the plans and targets of a company like Wal-Mart, for example, vs. the targets of Tesco in the UK or Metro in Germany, or Carrefour in France.

    One of the things we all admire Americans for is ambition and drive, and applying some more of that to sustainability would surely be a good thing!

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