Thursday, August 11, 2011

We Need More Ray Andersons

Ray Anderson's obituary appeared in the New York Times today.
I'd gotten an email two days ago telling me that Ray had died. And while the obituary was okay, it hardly did him justice.
The headline read, "Ray Anderson, a Carpet Innovator, Dies at 77."
A carpet innovator?
How about, "Ray Anderson, A Giant, A Great Man, A Hero, Dies Too Young."
I shared a platform with Ray about a year ago in Atlanta at a conference on design and the environment.
He gave a simple talk, speaking in a simple way.
He told us he had cancer. That was how he started. Just like that.
Then he told us that America was sick, too. That our national way of doing business was poisoning the environment.
He talked about his own epiphany and transformation.
How he'd made a commitment to turn around Interface. To make a carpet company into a green company.
It wasn't a business decision. It was a crusade.
And it has been a wonderful crusade, a brilliant campaign, a teaching lesson, a preaching lesson.
The company thrived when Ray turned it into a model of environmental practices.
Carpets, which are typically the greatest contributor of waste to landfills, under Ray's guidance, became a source of best environmental practices.
He cut waste; he cut emissions; he cut energy use.
He got so good at it, he started a side business, consulting to other companies that wanted to learn how to do what he was doing.
He was a hero.
He was a great man.
He was a remarkable, modest, giant of a man.
Very simply, we need more Ray Andersons.
Because the one we had, the original one, is gone.

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