Environment

Ray Anderson’s radical confessions: Read an excerpt

Ray Anderson (watch his TEDTalk), the chairman and founder of carpet company Interface Inc., is part of a new industrial revolution: one that demands ecological awareness. Simply conforming to government regulations didn’t satisfy Anderson, who has made the march toward total sustainability an integral part of his company’s customer appeal. For Interface, being “green” is not just a trend or a term, it’s a serious way to curb production costs and make quality flooring.

In 1995 Anderson challenged himself and his employees to hold Interface to the highest ecological standards possible: “to take nothing from the Earth that can’t be replaced by the earth.” Interface proudly promotes its Mission Zero — the company’s goal of achieving total sustainability by the year 2020. This mountain of a task is the subject of Anderson’s new book, Confessions of a Radical Industrialist. In it, he chronicles the thought process leading to this radical innovation, the opposition faced, and how the results have (so far) validated this turn. The book is a guide for entrepreneurs who are looking for new models of production (especially ones with environmentally friendly attitudes) in a market that’s always reinventing itself.

Interface’s journey is far from over, and Anderson knows this. While he admits that promoting Mission Zero may have given Interface an edge in the market, he still wants to see more companies join the cause. One of his most persuasive techniques are the amazing statistics he drops; such as that since 2003, Interface has “manufactured and sold over 83 million square yards of carpet with no net global-warming effect.”

Anderson’s business perspective comes through in every paragraph; his concern for the planet’s well-being pulses through the page. Ever the optimist, he insists the human species can find a way to be productive and not destructive. The only thing inhibiting this is our own apprehension to hold ourselves to such high standards. This leads to Anderson’s ultimate message: Sticking with the status quo is no longer an option, and we must learn to truly maintain the finite resources we’re lucky to still have.

Read an excerpt from Chapter Two of Confessions of a Radical Industrialist, called “The Power of One Good Question,” which describes the impetus for Interface’s trek up Mount Sustainability. Download the excerpt >>