A dive into Ray Anderson and his efforts in sustainability.
Ray C. Anderson was the founder of Interface Inc., a renowned manufacturing company for modular carpet, commercial broadloom, and fabrics, where he also served as chairman. He died at the age of 77 from cancer. Anderson was very big on environmental responsibility and driving sustainability.
Having graduated from the Georgia Institute of Technology as an industrial and systems engineer, he worked at Deering, Milliken & Company, where he learned the carpet trade.
Anderson was well known for pushing safe and sustainable environment propaganda. After reading Paul Hawken's book, Ecology of Commerce, Anderson was pushed to ensure that Interface reduced or eliminated any negative impact on the environment. This passion drove him to re-design new production methods aimed at reducing environmental waste and using only renewable sources of energy and production materials. He called this vision "Mission Zero" and was dedicated to ensuring his company was fully compliant.
Despite several kickbacks from investors and stakeholders, Ray was determined to continue going "round the bend" to ensure that his company remained focused on sustainability. In due time, the reduction in waste by his company began to yield bonus profit for the company. The company was able to save millions from this venture.
In a bid to promote sustainability, Anderson started to create processes and products that were environmentally friendly. He initially had a lot of failed approaches, one of which was a process to reclaim materials by dissolving carpet tiles. Another process introduced was energy-intensive facilities in two countries. Both projects were unsuccessful because they cost a lot and increased the environmental footprint. An early failed approach to recycling included a process that dissolved whole carpet tiles in a chemical solution to reclaim materials. Another process involved specialized energy-intensive facilities in two countries.
After several attempts, the company was able to come up with new methods that were more sustainable and environmentally friendly. Aquafil, the nylon supplier, was able to produce the first 100% recycled nylon carpet fiber emerged only after the tough lessons of these failures.
In a bid to promote sustainability, Anderson started to create processes and products that were environmentally friendly.
Legacy of Sustainability
Anderson's vision continues to have a positive impact on society even after his demise. His company continues to roll over Mission Zero every year with new strategies for sustainability. The Interface is a fully green company, and it took 30 years to build, starting with Anderson's dream. The company sources about 49% of its raw materials from renewable sources. The company hopes to figure the remaining 51% in the shortest possible time.
Anderson was recognized for his works and efforts toward building sustainable legacies. He was featured in many documentaries, such as the Canadian documentary, The Corporation, Big Ideas for a Small Planet by Sundance Channel, among many others. A movie was made about Interface, So right, So Smart, which unraveled the story of the company.
He won Times Heroes of Environment in 2007 and the InauguralMillenniumAward from Global Green in 1996. He was also recognized by Forbes magazine and Ernst and Young in 1996 as Entrepreneur of the Year.
He also won Sustainability Award from the Women's Network for a Sustainable Future (WNSF) in 2010. That same year, He was also given the Pillars of EARTH Sustainable Leadership Awards by Earth University in Costa Rica.
Building a sustainable brand yields long-term benefits as well as reduces business costs in the long term.
Putting great effort into achieving sustainability is a strong force for any business and can be great for a business's reputation.
Driving an environmentally friendly and sustainable brand comes with some failures, but they are usually lessons that can propel you to do better or find alternatives and should not be seen as setbacks.