A little over a week ago, Ray Anderson, the chairman and founder of Interface Carpet, passed away after a lengthy battle with cancer. I wanted to write this post a week ago, but, frankly, I have been struggling with words to describe why Ray Anderson has been such an instrumental figure in the environmentalism movement and why his death is so sad. So, I’m going to try to keep this short and sweet.
Ray Anderson became the embodiment of the environmental movement when I was still in college and was shown a short video on how Interface was able to take the potentially environmentally devastating production of carpet, a petroleum based product, and make it radically less environmentally impactful. He has been able to demonstrate that sustainability can not only not negatively impact an industry’s profits but can actually bolster them. He has been repeatedly labelled as the “greenest CEO” in the country and yet he has continued to push; small improvements are not enough- revolution is required. He has brought the responsibility of being environmentally responsible down on everyone.
I was fortunate to be part of a small group that Ray Anderson spoke to about a year ago. His presentation was striking and thought provoking for many reasons, but what stuck with me the most was his ability to be a visionary and still be able to communicate simply and concisely while backing up his vision with impressive real-life results. While I am extremely saddened by his passing, I know that Ray Anderson has made such an impact on industry and the sustainability movement that his legacy will surely live on.
“I used to think that my job didn’t have anything to do with the environment. Then I realized that my job, as well as everyone else’s job, impacts the environment in some way. And now advocating for sustainability has become my No. 1 responsibility.” -Ray Anderson