Ceres Pays Tribute to Sustainability Giant Ray Anderson
Ceres marks with sadness the passing of Ray Anderson, Interface founder and chairman, an extraordinary leader and sustainability pioneer. Anderson was a long-time Ceres friend and advisor, and one of the first industrialists to build his entire business model around sustainability.
“Ray instinctively knew that sustainability was not about micro-steps, or about changing light bulbs, but about transforming the entire DNA of one’s commercial enterprise, ” said Mindy Lubber, Ceres president. “Ray took bold steps to improve his company’s environmental performance long before sustainability was popular, and he proved that it could be done profitably. He was a friend, a mentor, an inspiration to me and a leading colleague in the Ceres company network. His extraordinary commitment and vision will continue to inspire business leaders for generations to come.”
Anderson built Interface from the ground up in 1973, and led it to become the world's largest manufacturer of modular carpet. In 1994, after reading Paul Hawken’s The Ecology of Commerce, Anderson had an epiphany about the profligate waste in business. He embarked on a sustainability journey aiming for zero waste and zero impact that within five years earned him the recognition as the greenest CEO in America by Fortune.
Anderson said that, for Interface, sustainability meant "eventually operating our petroleum-intensive company in such a way as to take from the earth only what can be renewed by the earth naturally and rapidly, not another fresh drop of oil, and to do no harm to the biosphere. Take nothing. Do no harm."
Not satisfied with simply transforming his own company, Anderson gave over 1,500 lectures on sustainability and authored two books, Business Lessons from a Radical Industrialist and Confessions of a Radical Industrialist, to teach others that greening one’s business was profitable for the bottom line.
"It's up to us, it's up to the private sector, to change this world," he once said.
As a long-time Ceres company, Interface’s actions under Anderson’s tenure inspired countless Ceres companies to take meaningful actions. After resigning from Interface as CEO, Anderson continued to stay engaged with Ceres by serving as a judge for Ceres’ Bavaria Awards.
Anderson died of cancer in his Atlanta home, surrounded by family members on Monday, August 8. His legacy lives on.