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Giving Integrity A Voice

Ray Anderson & Interface Inc: 1994 – The Future

To recap my previous article about Ray Anderson & Interface:

Who is Ray Anderson/Interface Inc.?

Ray Anderson is the founder of Interface Inc., the international leader in modular carpet manufacturing.  In 1994, Ray was asked a question to which he had no answer: what are you doing for the environment?  When he was then asked to write a kickoff speech for Interface’s environment task force, he was directed to read Paul

Hawken’s book “The Ecology of Commerce.”  At 60 years old, his life was forever transformed, as a entrepreneur and as a human being…

1994 – The Present

It was early 1995 when Ray Anderson’s “mid-course correction” took flight, (this is also the title of the book he wrote in 1999.)  He realized that “the biggest culprit in this massive mistreatment of the earth by human kind (and the resulting decline of the biosphere)…is business and industry.”  And what better way to prove things can change then with an industry that uses a very high level of petroleum/petroleum derivatives in every day operation.  It was not going to be easy but Ray had two things on his side: a 51% share of the company he founded and the creativity to make the right decisions at the right time.

He began by forming a plan that would be anything but “let’s start small.”  His plan was across the board, an overhaul effecting every link of the supply chain.  He also knew that his, and all shareholders react to financial performance, so from the beginning, he made a core goal to obliterate costs/footprint associated with waste; silencing the shareholders that were uncomfortable with the risk involved with completely revolutionizing your company.

What did Interface do differently than the average carpet manufacturer?

Since 1995, they have completely transformed how carpet is manufactured and how a industrial production supply chain functions.  In abundance, Interface is recycling, conserving energy and creating/utilizing technologies that did not exist, helping the company to save money, increase profits, and reduce their footprint.  They are even helping other companies; if your business cannot find a place to recycle worn or damaged carpet, you can ship it to them and they’ll do it for you!  In Ray Anderson’s words, “costs, products, people, marketplace, what else is there?  It is a better business model… More happiness with less stuff.”

Interesting Question: How did the economic crisis effect Interface Inc.?

The average carpet manufacturer decreased 36% between 2001 and 2003, Interface decreased 17%, literally GAINING MARKET SHARE while increasing profits ever since.

Interface Inc. Statistics / The Future

Ray Anderson’s goal, something Interface calls “mission zero”, to become completely sufficient, with zero impact and zero footprint by 2020.  Interface is currently more than 50% of the way there, with some statistics including:

  • Net greenhouse gases down 89%
  • Sales increased by 2/3rds
  • Profits doubled
  • Water usage down 75%
  • Renewable and recyclable material up 25%
  • Renewable energy 27% of their total usage
  • Produced and sold 85 mil. square yards of climate neutral carpet since 2007
  • Saved over $400,000,000 in avoided costs since the decision to revolutionize

Why is Ray Anderson so focused on “climbing mount sustainability,” with all the risk involved?  Ray uses the concepts of tomorrow’s child and inter-generational tyranny.  He knows that if we continue down this road of waste, greed and irresponsibility, there will be no world for our future generations.  In a discussion with Time Magazine he reflected on the idea that in the future, robber barons, waste making entrepreneurs and irresponsible capitalists would in fact, go to jail for their environmental/social ignorance.

I wonder if the ideas of “sustainability”, “going green”, and “saving the earth”, have a very… uneconomic, tree hugger, hippy, financially naïve connotation. It is this fact that, when I put myself in the shoes of (not only CEO’s and business owners,) but the average citizen, who is CONSTANTLY wasting, I mentally make this their “benefit of the doubt.”  I think to myself, if they knew that not only, are you making an impact when you litter, but when you spend money with those entities that are making a massive impact on our earth and our economy.  Then possibly they would care where their money went, when they leave the furnace on, leave the lights on, drive instead of bike/walk, or throw something out instead of recycling/donating/reusing it.

I finish with (obviously) a quote from Mr. Anderson, and it sums up the idea that if EVERYONE realized this piece of information, our world would be a much different place:
“There is only one institution on earth that is large enough, powerful enough, pervasive enough, wealthy enough, and influential enough to really lead human kind in a different direction, out of the mess that we have created for ourselves… that is the institution of business and industry.”

Where you money goes, matters, and unless the consumers and the entrepreneurs start doing something… There will be no world for “future generations” to inhabit.

Ted Talk Featuring Ray Anderson:

Ray Anderson Sources

Official Interface Sources
Ray Anderson Video Profile
Ray Anderson Biography Via Interface Inc.

Ted Talks
Ray Anderson Ted Talk
Ted Speaker Profile: Ray Anderson

New York Times

Executives on Misson: Saving The Planet Featuring Ray Anderson
Video Profile of Ray Anderson

Time Magazine Online
Heroes of The Environment Profile: Ray Anderson

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  1. This One’s for Ray- Reflections on the Passing of a Sustainability Giant & Radical Industrialist, Ray Anderson « Manufacturers.BlogNotions - Thoughts from Industry Experts - [...] of the supply chain.  Ray also smartly knew that go get his shareholders on board, he needed “ obliterate ...
  2. This One’s for Ray- Reflections on the Passing of a Sustainability Giant & Radical Industrialist, Ray Anderson | Sustainability Articles | Green News and Articles | Green Conduct - [...] of the supply chain.  Ray also smartly knew that go get his shareholders on board, he needed “obliterate costs/footprint ...
  3. This One’s for Ray- Reflections on the Passing of a Sustainability Giant & Radical Industrialist, Ray Anderson « ValueStreaming - [...] of the supply chain.  Ray also smartly knew that go get his shareholders on board, he needed “obliterate costs/footprint ...
  4. Examples of Integrity: Ray Anderson & Interface Inc. | The Integrious Project - [...] A continuation of this article, discussing how Interface would conquer (In Ray Anderson’s words) mount sustainability, can be found ...

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