Ray Anderson (entrepreneur)

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Ray Anderson
BornJuly 28, 1934 (1934-07-28)
DiedAugust 8, 2011 (2011-08-09) (aged 77)
Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.
Known forFounder and chairman of Interface Inc.

Ray C. Anderson (July 28, 1934 – August 8, 2011)[1] was founder and chairman of Interface Inc., one of the world's largest manufacturers of modular carpet for commercial and residential applications and a leading producer of commercial broadloom and commercial fabrics. He was known in environmental circles for his advanced and progressive stance on industrial ecology and sustainability.[2]

Anderson died on August 8, 2011, twenty months after being diagnosed with cancer.[3][4] On July 28, 2012, Anderson's family re-launched the Ray C. Anderson Foundation.[5][6][7][8][9] with a new purpose.

Originally created to fund Ray Anderson's personal philanthropic giving, family members announced the rebirth and refocus of the Foundation on Anderson's birthday, nearly one year after his 2011 death. The purpose of the Ray C. Anderson Foundation is to perpetuate shared values and continue the legacy that Anderson left behind. The Ray C. Anderson Foundation is a not-for-profit 501(c)3 organization whose mission is to promote and advance the concepts of sustainable production and consumption.

Life and career[edit]

Anderson was an honors graduate of the Georgia Institute of Technology in the school of industrial and systems engineering in 1956.[10] He learned the carpet trade through more than 14 years at Deering, Milliken & Company and Callaway Mills.

Anderson founded Interface in 1973 to produce the first free-lay carpet tiles in America.[11] Interface is one of the world's largest producers of modular commercial floorcoverings, with sales in 110 countries and manufacturing facilities on four continents.[12]

Environmental focus[edit]

Anderson first turned his focus toward the environment in 1994 when he read The Ecology of Commerce by Paul Hawken,[3] and also Ishmael by Daniel Quinn, seeking inspiration for a speech to an internal task force on the company's environmental vision. Hawken argues that the industrial system is destroying the planet and only industry leaders are powerful enough to stop it.

In 2009, Anderson estimated that Interface was more than halfway towards the vision of “Mission Zero,”[13] the company's promise to eliminate any negative impact it may have on the environment by the year 2020 through the redesign of processes and products, the pioneering of new technologies, and efforts to reduce or eliminate waste and harmful emissions while increasing the use of renewable materials and sources of energy.[14][15]

Anderson chronicled the Mission Zero journey in two books, Mid-Course Correction: Toward a Sustainable Enterprise: The Interface Model (1998) and Confessions of a Radical Industrialist: Profits, People, Purpose: Doing Business by Respecting the Earth (2009).[16][17] The latter was released in paperback as Business Lessons from a Radical Industrialist in 2011.

Recognition and awards[edit]

Anderson was featured several documentaries and films, such as The Corporation, (2004 Canadian documentary); The 11th Hour (2007 Leonardo DiCaprio film); I Am (2011 Tom Shadyac documentary); Big Ideas for a Small Planet (Sundance Channel series); and others.

The Interface story is the focus of the documentary film “So Right, So Smart” (2009).[18]

Ray served a stint as co-chair of the President's Council on Sustainable Development during President Clinton's administration, which led to him co-chairing the Presidential Climate Action Plan in 2008, a team that presented the Obama Administration with a 100-day action plan on climate.[19] Together, he and Interface funded the creation of the Anderson-Interface Chair in Natural Systems at Georgia Tech, where Associate Professor Valerie Thomas conducts research in sustainability.[20]

Ray Anderson received a host of accolades throughout his life, including:

  • In 2007, he was named one of Time’s Heroes of the Environment.[21]
  • Inaugural Millennium Award from Global Green, presented by Mikhail Gorbachev (1996)[22]
  • Recognized by Forbes magazine and Ernst & Young, which named him Entrepreneur of the Year in 1996.[19]
  • The American Society of Interior Designers Design for Humanity Award (2010)[23]
  • Lifetime Achievement Award from GreenLaw (2010)
  • The inaugural Global Sustainability Prize from the University of Kentucky Tracy Farmer Institute for Sustainability and the Environment (2010)[24]
  • River Guardian Award from the Upper Chattahoochee Riverkeeper (2010)[25]
  • Sustainability Award from the Women's Network for a Sustainable Future (WNSF), the first time the WNSF has honored a businessman (2010)[26]
  • Pillars of EARTH Sustainable Leadership Awards given by EARTH University in Costa Rica (2010)[27]
  • Purpose Prize from Encore.org (2007)[28]
  • Auburn University’s International Quality of Life Award (2007)[29]
  • George and Cynthia Mitchell International Prize for Sustainable Development (2001)[19]

Under Anderson's leadership, Interface was named to CRO magazine's (formerly Business Ethics magazine) 100 Best Corporate Citizens List for three years.[30] In 2006, Sustainablebusiness.com named Interface to their SB20 list of Companies Changing the World,[31] and in 2006 GlobeScan listed Interface #1 in the world for corporate sustainability.[32]

Anderson was former Board Chair for The Georgia Conservancy and served on the boards of the Ida Cason Callaway Foundation, Rocky Mountain Institute, the David Suzuki Foundation, Emory University Board of Ethics Advisory Council, the ASID Foundation, Worldwatch Institute, and the Arizona State University Global Institute of Sustainability Advisory Board. He was on the Advisory Boards of the Harvard Medical School Center for Health and the Global Environment and the Upper Chattahoochee Riverkeeper.[19]

He was awarded 12 honorary doctorates from Northland College (public service), LaGrange College (business), N.C. State University (humane letters), University of Southern Maine (humane letters), The University of the South (civil law), and Colby College (law), Kendall College of Art and Design (art), Emory University (science), Central College in Pella, Iowa, (humane letters), Chapman University (humane letters), Clarkson University (science), and the Georgia Institute of Technology (philosophy).[33]

Anderson's papers were donated to the Georgia Historical Society by the Ray C. Anderson Foundation and Interface, Inc. in late 2015. The collection, which includes biographical materials, business records, correspondence, organizational records, photographs, presentations, speeches, writings, travel files, and books, is available at the Georgia Historical Society's Research Center in Savannah. The online finding aid can be found here.[34]


  1. ^ Langer, Emily (August 10, 2011). "Ray Anderson, 'greenest CEO in America,' dies at 77". Washington Post.
  2. ^ Mason, Peter (August 26, 2011). "Ray Anderson obituary". The Guardian. Retrieved August 26, 2011.
  3. ^ a b Vitello, Paul (August 10, 2011). "Ray Anderson, Businessman Turned Environmentalist, Dies at 77". New York Times.
  4. ^ "RIP, sustainability pioneer Ray Anderson". Smart Planet. August 10, 2011.
  5. ^ "Foundation launches on birthday of Ray C. Anderson; Refocuses on funding sustainability research projects" (Press release). Ray C. Anderson Foundation. July 28, 2012. Archived from the original on August 11, 2012.
  6. ^ Makower, Joel (July 31, 2012). "A New Foundation to Honor Ray Anderson's Legacy". GreenBiz.
  7. ^ Makower, Joel (August 6, 2012). "Why Aren't There More Ray Andersons?". GreenBiz.
  8. ^ "Remembering a Visionary—The Ray C Anderson Foundation". Laura Turner Seydel. August 9, 2012. Archived from the original on December 24, 2013.
  9. ^ "Foundation website to advance the legacy of Ray C. Anderson (1934-2011), America's Greenest CEO" (Press release). Ray C. Anderson Foundation. August 8, 2012. Archived from the original on August 14, 2012.
  10. ^ "ISyE Alumnus and Interface Chairman Ray Anderson Dies" (Press release). Georgia Tech. August 9, 2011.
  11. ^ "Company History". Interface, Inc.
  12. ^ Georgia Tech Interface
  13. ^ “Green-biz pioneer Ray Anderson says sustainability literally pays for itself,” Grist
  14. ^ “Ray Anderson, sustainable business pioneer, dies aged 77,” The Guardian
  15. ^ Interface’s Mission Zero Progress Archived September 3, 2011, at the Wayback Machine
  16. ^ Ray Anderson Interview on YouTube
  17. ^ “Confessions of a Radical Industrialist,” Green Living
  18. ^ Magic Green Pictures, So Right, So Smart
  19. ^ a b c d Ray Anderson Biography
  20. ^ “Ray Anderson awarded honorary doctorate at Georgia Tech,” Archived November 22, 2011, at the Wayback Machine Green Building Chronicle
  21. ^ “Heroes of the Environment,” TIME
  22. ^ “Past Millennium Award Recipients” Archived September 6, 2011, at the Wayback Machine
  23. ^ “ASID Announces ASID Awards Winners” Archived October 2, 2011, at the Wayback Machine
  24. ^ “Research Showcase to celebrate accomplishments in sustainability”
  25. ^ “Ray Anderson to receive River Guardian Award,” Atlanta Journal-Constitution
  26. ^ “Women's Network for a Sustainable Future - WNSF 7th Annual Award to Ray Anderson,” Archived March 30, 2012, at the Wayback Machine The Glass Hammer Network
  27. ^ “Pillars of EARTH: Sustainable Leadership Awards” Archived March 17, 2012, at the Wayback Machine
  28. ^ “Purpose Prize Winner, Environmentalist Ray Anderson Dies at 77” Archived October 4, 2011, at the Wayback Machine
  29. ^ “AU Quality of Life Award honors Ray Anderson at United Nations”
  30. ^ “Interface founder and chairman Ray Anderson, visionary entrepreneur and champion of the environment,” Green Living Guy
  31. ^ “The 2007 SB20: World's Top Sustainable Stocks,” Archived September 27, 2011, at the Wayback Machine SustainableBusiness.com
  32. ^ “Companies and Governments Lag NGOs in Driving Sustainability but New Corporate Leaders Emerging, According to Experts,” Archived September 27, 2011, at the Wayback Machine The Sustainability Survey
  33. ^ “InterfaceFLOR Founder and Chairman Ray Anderson Awarded Honorary Doctorate From Georgia Tech”
  34. ^ “Georgia Historical Society Announces the Collection of Environmental Visionary Ray C. Anderson Now Open For Research” Georgiahistory.com

Further reading[edit]

  • Becher, Anne, and Joseph Richey, American Environmental Leaders: From Colonial Times to the Present (2 vol, 2nd ed. 2008) vol 1 online pp. 25–27.

External links[edit]