Anderson’s Green Legacy
Ray Anderson, founder of Interface. Photo by Corbis.
I’ve been ruminating over the sad departure of Ray Anderson, founder of carpet tile company Interface and designated “America’s greenest businessman” by the Economist. After his epiphany to make his company more environmentally responsible in 1994, Anderson made significant and admirable changes in the way Interface manages material and energy resources. In less than 20 years, the company dropped its carbon emissions by 92 percent, lowered its water consumption by 75 percent, and resurrected 74,000 tons of carpet from landfills.
In today’s stagnating economy, it is easy for businesses to gloss over Anderson’s accomplishments as boom-time luxuries, based on the idea that investments in environmentally responsible practices burden the bottom line. However, an astonishing fact of Anderson’s legacy is that Interface profited handsomely from its transformation, with sales increases of 66 percent and double the profits since its adoption of green strategies. Imagine what the U.S. economy might be like if 10 percent of companies adopted the “Anderson effect,” or even 50 percent. It could be a green material revolution accompanied by unprecedented economic benefit—a much needed boost to the U.S. economy and a fitting testament to the vision of America’s greenest businessman.