From void into vision, from vision to mind, from mind into speech, from speech to the tribe, from the tribe into din.

Tuesday, March 01, 2022

Interface: From Living Zero to Climate Take Back

I met Ray Anderson in 1996 at a conference about The Natural Step (, an environmental action framework from Sweden.  He had founded Interface (, a carpet tile manufacturer, in 1973 and built it into 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."

In 1994 he started the company on Mission Zero (, zero environmental impact by 2020 because, he said, his grandchildren started getting on him about environment, pollution, ecology.  He listened, took a good, long look at what he was doing, and realized he was a pirate, robbing resources and giving nothing back but waste and indigestible detritus.  

So he started the company on Mission Zero, the promise to eliminate any negative impact the company has on the environment by the year 2020.  They did by 2019.

At that meeting in 1996, Anderson said that Interface was working on seven aspects: eliminating waste; eliminating emissions; renewable energy; closed loop recycling; resource efficient transportation (which may he thought might be the most difficult); and sensitivity - teaching sustainability (using the example of hiring a family therapist at the Interface factory to help keep workers from bringing problems at home to work [and vice versa?] and citing the resulting growth in production and morale); and finally, redesigning commerce. For Ray Anderson, the "prototypical company of the 21st century will take nothing from the Earth, do no harm, be just, and do well by doing good." It is interesting to note that the Hippocratic Oath is "First do no harm" and that the first precept of Buddhism, according to Gary Snyder, is "Do no unnecessary harm.”

Now that Interface is living with zero negative impact it has launched its next mission, Climate Take Back, a net positive mission:

They intend to do it by
Live zero
Love carbon
Lead the industrial re-revolution
Let nature cool

Ray Anderson told us back in 1996, "I think the Earth needs a miracle. We can be that miracle.”

He certainly was.

Ray Anderson wrote 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) which was released as Business Lessons from a Radical Industrialist (2011).


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