They did not lay their hands on the plunder. Esther 9: 15
When he died earlier this month, obits from the Boston-Globe to the Atlanta-Journal Constitution referred to Ray Anderson as America’s Greenest CEO. Anderson referred to himself as a RECOVERING PLUNDERER.
The recovery phase came after this Georgia Tech grad and visionary read The Ecology of Commerce.
That book convicted him.
Anderson was CEO of Interface, a billion-dollar carpet business. Carpet, an oil-intensive product. For twenty years, Anderson ran his company in compliance with government regulations but gave little, if any, thought to the environmental impact of his products.
Until he read that book.
“Good design can release humankind from its neurotic relationship to absurd acts of destruction, and aim it toward a destiny that is far more “realistic” and enduring. The urge to create beauty is an untapped power, and it exists in commerce as well as in society.” – The Ecology of Commerce.
Sentiments like those expressed by author Paul Hawken forever altered the landscape of Ray Anderson’s life.
In 1994, long before sustainability was a common word, Anderson decided that he would no longer rob tomorrow’s children just so he could live high on the hog today. Anderson simply could not go about doing business as usual. He had to do it better. Do it well by doing good.
Zero footprint became his focus as Anderson waged a war on waste. Interface would eliminate waste, reduce emissions and switch to renewable energy sources. No easy feat for a carpet company, but Anderson wasn’t the kind of guy to shy away from a challenge. His goal was clear: to manufacture a product that does not come at the expense of tomorrow’s child.
We all make the choice to either leave this world in a better place than we found it — or not. Anderson believed we could re-frame civilization if we learned that we can have more happiness with less stuff.
Zero footprint may have been the intended goal for his company, but Ray Anderson’s own purposed steps has left a soft, fertile impression upon this beautiful blue and green world, and upon the hearts of many.
“What drives me? Tomorrow’s child,” Anderson said.
© Glenn Thomas
A wise friend introduced us two,
and through his sobering point of view
I saw a day that you 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.