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Get to Know Ray

Ray was a prolific speaker who told Interface’s story like no one else. View some of his most memorable speeches in our video library here.

Read Ray

Ray contributed to more than 100 books on the most compelling business imperative of our time, the pursuit of sustainability. He authored two books of his own, "Mid-Course Correction: The Interface Model" (Peregrinzilla Press, 1998) and "Confessions of a Radical Industrialist" (St. Martin’s Press, 2009). The latter was revised and updated prior to its March 2011 launch in paperback, "Business Lessons from a Radical Industrialist." It is available now from your favorite bookseller.

Continue Ray's Vision

One of Ray's biggest inspirations was Tomorrow's Child, the child of the future. Interface recognizes the importance of exposing children to nature and the environment and supports this vision through the Interface Environmental Education Grant program. The Grant program encourages environmental education in schools worldwide by supporting teachers whose classroom projects advance environmental awareness and responsibility.

Company > Leadership Team > Ray's Legacy

Ray's Legacy

Ray C. Anderson

Ray Anderson Leaves Behind Visionary Legacy in Sustainability

We are deeply saddened to announce that our beloved Chairman and Founder
Ray Anderson passed away on August 8, 2011. Ray was surrounded by the warmth of his close family and friends.

An adored husband, father, founder of Interface®, Inc., speaker, “radical industrialist” and author, Ray was a true inspiration to every one of us. He was so passionate about Interface, Inc. that he considered the organization to be like a “son.” We are better people and a better company for having been a part of Ray’s inspiring and rewarding life.

Ray will be remembered in many wonderful ways. One of the most remarkable impacts that Ray had on Interface was when he saw a new path for the company to take, in his own words, one that was “right and smart.”

In 1994, at age sixty and in my company’s twenty-second year, I steered Interface on a new course—one designed to reduce our environmental footprint while increasing our profits. I wanted Interface, a company so oil-intensive you could think of it as an extension of the petrochemical industry, to be 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. Believe me when I say the goal is one enormous challenge,” he said.

The entire Interface family misses Ray dearly. We will keep striving to meet Ray’s goal—our goal for sustainability—and honor his memory. Ray leaves behind a noble legacy at home in Georgia and throughout the world.

The story is now legend: the “spear in the chest” epiphany Ray Anderson experienced when he first read Paul Hawken’s The Ecology of Commerce, seeking inspiration for a speech to an Interface task force on the company’s environmental vision. Seventeen years and a sea change later, Ray estimates that Interface is more than half-way towards the vision of “Mission Zero,” the journey no one would have imagined for the company or the petroleum-intensive industry of carpet manufacturing which has been forever changed by Ray’s vision. Interface is pursuing Mission Zero through the radical 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. Ray chronicles that journey in Business Lessons from a Radical Industrialist, now available in paperback from St. Martin’s Griffin.

The book describes the Interface journey from Ray’s point of view, a story encapsulated by this 1997 quote from Ray, describing his vision for his company, then nearly a quarter-century old: “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. And we’ll be doing well … very well … by doing good. That’s the vision.”