Interface, Inc., founded by Ray Anderson in 1973, is the world’s largest producer of commercial carpet tile, with sales in more than 100 countries and manufacturing facilities on four continents. Noted for its commitment to high-quality design and innovation, the conglomerate is widely considered to be the pacesetter for environmentally sustainable business practices. In fact, GlobeScan listed Interface as #1 in corporate sustainability in 2006, and acclaimed urban architect Bob Fox stated, “Ray has set the mark for every other corporation in this country.”
For the skeptics of the cost of doing business in an eco-friendly manner, Anderson unequivocally says that “sustainability doesn’t cost, it pays.” The pay-off comes in many forms including customer loyalty, employee morale, and the bottom line … profit for the organization. Anderson says his efforts have saved the company $353 million since 1995. In fact, Interface’s environmental agenda has been so successful that it has its own consulting division, Interface RAISE, to market its sustainability strategies to other organizations.
Anderson has chronicled his evolution from captain of industry to environmentalist in the 1998 book, Mid-Course Correction. He appeared in the 2004 Canadian documentary, “The Corporation,” and currently in Leonardo DiCaprio’s environmental film, The 11th Hour. Anderson also has a master commentator role on the Sundance Channel’s 2007 series, Big Ideas for a Small Planet. He is a sought-after speaker and advisor, and, since turning over his CEO responsibilities to his successor, Dan Hendrix, spends most of his time traveling the world “selling sustainability.”
A native of West Point, Georgia, Anderson served as co-chair of the President’s Council on Sustainability during the Clinton administration and currently serves on the Emory Board of Visitors and the advisory boards of the Harvard Medical School Center for Health and the Global Environment and the Ida Cason Callaway Foundation. Anderson’s many honors and awards include the inaugural Millennium Award from Global Green (presented by Mikhail Gorbachev), the George and Cynthia Mitchell International Prize for Sustainable Development; Elle magazine’s Green Heroes Award; and Entrepreneur of the Year by Forbes magazine and Ernst & Young. Most recently he was named one of Time magazine’s 2007 “International Heroes of the Environment,” an honor he proudly shares with Prince Charles, Mikhail Gorbachev, Al Gore, and Robert Redford.
Ray Anderson, who was often called the “greenest CEO in America,” died August 8, 2011 at the age of 77 after a battle with cancer. The Ray C. Anderson Foundation began in 2012 with a mission to create a sustainable world by funding innovative projects that promote and advance the concepts of sustainable production and consumption. One of the foundation’s first grants was awarded to an associate professor of engineering at Auburn University in 2013.