Aug 10 2011
When Ray Anderson died this week, Planet Earth lost an advocate.
Ray was the founder of Interface Inc., the company that makes Flor carpeting, among other floor coverings. It's one of the largest and most successful companies of its kind. He was also a person who, in the mid-1990s, influenced a shift in the company’s environmental strategy.
When you consider the role of petrochemicals in making carpet, you understand what a huge shift this was.
I still have a copy of Interface’s first sustainability report, published in late 1997. His introduction to that report is a great example of his powerful vision:
“As I write this, there is no industrial company on Earth that meets its current needs without, in some measure, depriving future generations of the means to meet theirs. When Earth runs out of finite, exhaustible resources, or ecosystems collapse, our descendants will be left holding the empty bag. But, maybe, just maybe, the next industrial revolution can change this. I fervently hope so.”
During a 1998 meeting at with leaders here at Levi Strauss & Co., Ray adamantly shared his vision for a future where businesses embrace principles of sustainability. He passionately conveyed his views of how companies can operate successfully while using restoration practices, such as utilizing renewable energy from wind and solar, closing the loop by reusing precious resources rather than sending them to landfills, and eliminating all harmful releases to the ecosphere.
I believe this meeting may have been one of the first times our senior leaders heard this type of plea directly from one of their peers. The conversation didn’t stop at that meeting in 1998. Ray’s passion lit up the company’s then Global Environmental Council, and it still shines today in our company’s environmental vision through our stated goal toward restoration: We will build sustainability into everything we do so that our profitable growth helps restore the environment.
We will miss Ray, but the legacy of this risk-taking visionary – whom someone called a radical industrialist – lives on at Interface, Levi Strauss & Co., and in other companies around the world. We should be thankful for that.
You can read more about Ray on this blog at the Interface website.
Posted By: Colleen Kohlsaat, LS&Co. Social & Environmental Sustainability
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