The Death of Birth

Continuing yesterday's Avatar theme on not destroying the planet, I looked again at a video clip of Ray Anderson, CEO, Interface Flor speaking about the events that led him to commit his company to sustainability. It started with his reading a book, in 1994, by Paul Hawken, The Ecology of Commerce which talks about 'the death of birth". This was a phrase and a discussion on that profoundly moved Anderson.

At this stage he started to get interested in the argument against plundering the Earth for profit. 10 years later his company started to hear customers asking them "what are you doing for the environment?" The answer was 'not enough' as far as Anderson was concerned. Galvanized into further action, described in his book Mid Course Correction, by these types of things happening in the external world Ray Anderson has led the internal world of InterfaceFLOR into a very different way of operating than it had in 2004.

The company adopted the 2020 sustainability vision "Achieving Mission Zero™" which is their "promise to eliminate any negative impact Interface has on the environment by 2020". To this end Anderson has led both service and product innovations that are taking the company down the route of achieving the target. Winning the 2006 UK EDF Energy Environmental Impact Award in association with the Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment the company was applauded for two service innovation initiatives:

• Evergreen Carpet Leasing System – in return for a monthly leasing charge, InterfaceFLOR undertakes to maintain, replace and recycle all its carpets, ensuring sustainability throughout the lifespan of a carpet
• ReEntry® – InterfaceFLOR collects used carpet tiles for refurbishment and re-use

In 2009 Anderson spoke at the TED Conference on the Business Logic of Sustainability. He described himself as a "recovering plunderer" of the Earth. As the introduction to the speech notes "At his carpet company, Ray Anderson has increased sales and doubled profits while turning the traditional "take / make / waste" industrial system on its head. In a gentle, understated way, he shares a powerful vision for sustainable commerce".

In 2009 InterfaceFLOR was the first carpet company in North America to receive third party verified Environmental Product Declaration status, based on the full lifecycle assessment (LCA) that InterfaceFLOR has used in its own product measurement, such as progress on reducing dependence on virgin raw materials, reducing fossil fuel dependence and using renewable energy, and reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. In the TED speech Anderson said he thinks he is 50% towards reaching his 2020 goal and reinforces the point that there is a strong business logic to working towards that goal. Among the business benefits he cites.

• Development of the company's product and service innovation skills
• Increased employee motivation and productivity as they are working for a higher good
• Sustained profitability during economic turbulence
• A more positive customer experience – resulting in repeat and referred business

His is a convincing and powerful voice advocating 'more happiness with less stuff', not just for the current inhabitants of the planet but also for 'tomorrow's child'. As he says "We are part of the web of life and we have a choice to make during our brief visit to this planet – to hurt it or to help it. It's your call."