Widely loved and recognized environmentally sustainable business champion Ray Anderson has died of cancer at the age of 77.
Anderson was the founder of the modular carpet company Interface, who after reading Paul Hawken’s book The Ecology of Commerce, promised his company would become,
“the first company that, by its deeds, shows the entire industrial world what sustainability is in all its dimensions: people, process, product, place and profits – by 2020 – and in doing so, to become restorative through the power of influence.”
Despite facing difficult business conditions, Anderson pushed Interface forward in reaching his goal of zero carbon footprint by 2020. His efforts were notable even in the very early days of sustainable business practices, pushing the company up “Mount Sustainability” and urging other companies to do the same. Today, Interface is a billion dollar company and the number one seller of carpet tiles.
Interface created carpet tiles that would replace individual worn out sections of carpet, avoiding the need to replace an entire room of carpet. The company pioneered the use of bio-based and recycled carpet materials, with closed-loop manufacturing processes that would help to eliminate a large amount of waste and serve to lower emissions.
Carpet uses immense volumes of non-renewable resources and is a petroleum-based product, which produces toxic emissions and is difficult to reuse or recycle at the end of its life.
Interface’s carbon footprint is halfway to zero, and has influenced the entire carpet industry with recycling infrastructure that greens-up operations and products used in carpet manufacturing.
Anderson saw and spoke about the laws and regulations governing commerce that make it so difficult to operate a sustainable business, and make it easy and cost-effective to waste resources and rack up an unfathomably large carbon footprint.
He gave many speeches during his later years. He appeared in The New York Times, Fortune and Time, who also named him one of their “Heroes of the Environment” in 2007. In his latest book, “Business Lessons of a Radical Industrialist,” he spoke openly about his illness despite his hesitation to bring it up in any of his speeches.
Ray Anderson will be missed by environmentalists and business professionals around the world, but with the increased amount of experience and knowledge in sustainable business, we can only hope his efforts will continue to impact companies and motivate them to lower their carbon footprints. Ray Anderson sought to make a difference.