Thanks to Bill Sheehan for passing along the message last week that Ray Anderson, CEO of Interface Carpet, died on August 8. Anderson was a fixture as a speaker at product stewardship conferences and a leader in the Zero Waste movement.
One of Sheehan’s fondest memories is of Ray Anderson reciting this poem, written by an employee at Interface who, like Ray, woke up to see that he was making unthinking choices that would affect his unborn child. Here’s the poem, and then a really wonderful obituary from Grist.com below. Be sure to click on the link to Anderson’s TED talk at the very end.
Without a name; an unseen face
and knowing not your time nor place
Tomorrow’s Child, though yet unborn,
I met you first last Tuesday morn.
A wise friend introduced us two,
and through his shining point of view
I saw a day that would see;
a day for you, but not for me.
Knowing you has changed my thinking,
for I never had an inkling
That perhaps the things I do
might someday, somehow, threaten you.
Tomorrow’s Child, my daughter-son,
I’m afraid I’ve just begun
To think of you and of your good,
though always having known I should.
Begin I will to weigh the cost
of what I squander; what is lost
If ever I forget that you
will someday come to live here too.
Glen Thomas – employee Interface
A green giant passes
Ray Anderson, sustainable-biz pioneer, dies at 77
BY LISA HYMAS
8 AUG 2011 6:18 PM
Way back in the ’90s, before every company under the sun wanted to be seen as green, Ray Anderson started trying to make his business truly sustainable. Not we-buy-carbon-offsets sustainable or look-at-our-recycled-packaging sustainable, but real-deal sustainable.
In 1994, his world was rocked by reading Paul Hawken’s book The Ecology of Commerce, an experience Anderson described as being hit with a “spear in the chest.” The book pinpointed business and industry as the biggest force for environmental destruction, but also the most potentially powerful force for positive change. It forced Anderson to recognize himself as a “plunderer of the earth” and inspired him to embark on a multi-step process to become “a recovering plunderer.”
Under his leadership, the carpet company he founded in the 1970s, Interface, set forth on “Mission Zero” — aiming for zero waste, zero impact, and zero footprint by 2020. For Interface, Anderson said, 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.” In 2009, he told Grist that his company was halfway there.
Mission Zero, according to Anderson, has been incredibly good for business — bringing costs down, boosting morale up, and attracting a lot of customers. Anderson’s proselytizing — he gave more than 1,000 speeches and wrote two books — convinced a lot of other business leaders to take up the sustainability challenge, from mom-and-pop outfits all the way up to Walmart.
Anderson died at his home today of cancer. His legacy will, of course, live on, and Interface will continue its climb up “Mount Sustainability.”
Watch Anderson’s 2009 TED talk: