The Leadership of Ray Anderson
Fans of Ray Anderson will find much that is familiar in his new book, Confessions of a Radical Industrialist. And whether you’re familiar with his journey up Mt. Sustainability or new to his writings, you will inevitably be inspired by his story.
Paul Hawkin calls him the “poet-laureate of industrial ecology,” an apt title. Ray turned the commercial carpet industry on it’s ear when, in 1994 he steered his company, as he states, “on a new course – one designed to reduce our environmental footprint and increase our profits.” Interface was already enormously successful and it remains so today – the world leader in carpet tiles with annual sales of more than a billion dollars.
Therein lies the book’s primary message: Since 1996, Interface has CUT greenhouse gas emissions by 82 percent, CUT fossil fuel consumption by 60 percent and INCREASED sales by 66 percent, DOUBLED earnings and RAISED profit margins.
Don’t try to tell Ray Anderson that sustainability doesn’t pay. In addition to the financial rewards, the greening of Interface has given the company tremendous visibility and good will among its customers. Almost every other carpet manufacturer, challenged by Interface’s successes, has developed its own environmental initiatives, many with great success; our industry – and surely our planet – are beneficiaries.
The book is a “how-to” really, told by a master storyteller. Companies wishing to begin or enhance their sustainability efforts can find no better teacher. Ray recounts his journey, much of it retold from his first book, Mid-Course Correction published in 1998, but updated with the wisdom and advantage of hindsight. The goals set by him and his team in 1994 have begun to be realized – significant waste reduction, less reliance on fossil fuels and more on renewables, aggressive recycling programs, and reduced impacts from packaging and transportation.
Ray doesn’t shy away from controversy –Interface’s continued use of PVC, which he defends vigorously – or admitting mistakes and bumps along the way with refreshing candor. Similarly there are chapters on redefining commerce, on the science of climate change and its social and ethical implications, and on his vision for the final assent up Mt. Sustainability to reach at last Interface’s simply put restorative goal: take nothing, do no harm.
There’s also a chapter on leadership. Let just say, Ray Anderson wrote the book!