What We Could Lose Unless We Change: Remembering Ray Anderson

By Paul Hawken
Via Yes Magazine 

“Reimagining the world was a responsibility for Ray, a gift to a future that is begging for selflessness and vision.” Paul Hawken honors the life of a green business pioneer.

Ray Anderson had an epiphany in the 90s: The use of petrochemicals and other resources by his carpet tiles company, Interface, was putting the planet in peril. Prompted by Paul Hawken’s book The Ecology of Commerce, Anderson embraced one of the industry’s most celebrated green intitiatives, Mission Zero—a commitment to reduce Interface’s environmental impact to nothing.

Anderson’s pioneering effort provided a model for green business everywhere: cutting greenhouse gas emissions, fossil fuel consumption, landfill waste, and water use in significant amounts—all while growing profits.

Anderson’s goal, stated in 1997, was to do well as a company by doing good by the planet. “If we’re successful,” he said, “We’ll spend the rest of our days harvesting yesteryear’s carpets and other petrochemically derived products, recycling them into new materials and converting sunlight into energy, with zero scrap going to the landfill and zero emissions into the ecosystem.”

This week, Hawken honored the life of Ray Anderson, whose passing was announced on Monday, with these words.


Once your eyes open to the magnificence of creation, you cannot unsee.

We, who were so fortunate to know Ray Anderson, were in awe. He was many people: a father, executive, colleague, brother, speaker, writer, leader, pioneer. But I am not sure any of us quite figured him out. On the outside, Ray was deceptively traditional, very quiet sometimes—an everyman, all-American, down-home. He was so normal that he could say just about anything and get away with it because people didn’t quite believe what they heard. He could walk into an audience and leave listeners transfixed by a tenderness and introspection they never expected or met. Business audiences in particular had no defenses because they had no framework for Ray.

Was he really a businessman? Yes. Was he a conservative southern gentleman with that very refined Georgia drawl? Yes. Was he successful? For sure. Well, then where did these radical statements come from? Read story at Yes Magazine

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