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Miriam Turner, Net Works Interface 

Miriam Turner, Associate Vice President of Co-Innovation at Interface, a global carpet manufacturer is turning waste fishing nets into new carpets. In the 1990’s, the company’s CEO, Ray Anderson, set out a vision to make Interface an environmentally sustainable business. Miriam – with a degree in ecological sciences and several sustainability internships under her belt – joined the company in 2004. In each of her roles, she has pursued opportunities to innovate in the company’s product and supply chains while simultaneously addressing wider societal challenges, such as poverty and climate change. In 2011 she stumbled across her latest project opportunity.

Around 640,000 tons of discarded fishing nets ends up in the oceans each year — or 10 percent of the world total of marine debris. Many fishing nets are discarded due to wear and tear and then replaced. In developing countries, fishers often dispose of their nets on beaches – where they cause pollution – or in the sea, where they can last for centuries continuing to catch or injure marine life – a process known as “ghost fishing”.

The fishers that discard these nets are often living in extreme poverty and locked into declining fisheries which are only further degraded by ghost nets. 23 million people rely on the oceans for their livelihood and have few opportunities to break the cycle of poverty and environmental degradation.

Global carpet tile manufacturer, Interface, and the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), a conservation NGO, have teamed up to develop an innovative supply chain approach that aims to tackle the environmental problem of discarded fishing nets whilst helping to address issues of poverty and overfishing: They’ve christened this partnership ‘Net-Works’.

Through the partnership, communities are educated about the damage of fishing nets and provided with financial incentives to recycle them. Village Savings and Loan groups (i.e. community organized microfinance) act as the organizing agents for the recycling activities where fishing nets can be deposited instead of cash. The recycled nets are then purchased by one of Interface’s yarn suppliers, Aquafil, who recycles them to new carpet yarn. This provides Interface an innovative source of material for its core product and allows them to tell an authentic and differentiating story to its customers. It also has instilled a strong sense of pride in the employees at the company.

Read more about Net-Works’ impact here.