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Vale Ray C Anderson

Interface founder and chairman Ray Anderson has died at age 77.

Vale Ray C Anderson


August 10th, 2011

Entrepreneur and champion for the environment Ray Anderson sadly passed away on 8 August.

Anderson, founder and chairman of commercial floorcovering manufacturers Interface was best known for his commitment to sustainability through his Mission Zero vision.

The pivotal moment in Anderson’s life and career came in 1994, in a now-legendary epiphany following his first reading of Paul Hawken’s The Ecology of Commerce.

Realising that he was at the helm of a company that, by nature of its industry, was wasteful and detrimental to the environment, Anderson became committed to eradicating Interface’s environmental footprint by the year 2020.

He described Interface as a company “so oil-intensive you could think of it as an extension of the petrochemical industry”, vowing to turn it into “the first enterprise in history to become truly sustainable – to shut down the smokestacks, close off its effluent pipes, to do no harm to the environment and take nothing not easily renewed by the earth.”

“If we’re successful, we’ll spend the rest of our days harvesting yester-year’s carpets and other petrochemically derived products, and recycling them into new materials; and converting sunlight into energy; with zero scrap going to the landfill and zero emissions into the ecosystem,” said Anderson of his vision in 1997.

“And we’ll be doing well… very well… by doing well. That’s the vision.”

Interface have since reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 35 per cent and fossil fuel consumption by 60 per cent, minimised waste to landfill by 82 per cent and water use by 82 per cent.

Avoiding $450 million in costs and more than doubling their earnings, they’re proof that a company can be both sustainable and commercially feasible.

The journey towards Mission Zero is sure to now become even more poignant and pertinent.

Read more about Anderson’s legacy and Mission Zero here. A tribute blog has been set up for those inspired by the work of Ray Anderson – share your thoughts and memories here.

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