the Second Industrial Revolution
Ray Anderson

     ... is founder and chairman of Interface, Inc. It is the world’s largest manufacturer of commercial floor coverings, doing business in 110 nations with plants in 6 countries. A pioneering industrialist, Mr. Anderson leads the Next Industrial Revolution toward sustainable (eventually restorative) products and processes. His petrochemical-intensive $1.5B company is profiting from their commitment to zero waste, throughout their supply chain. Mr. Anderson is also Co-chair of the President’s Commission on Sustainable Development. He is author of Mid-Course Correction — Toward a Sustainable Enterprise: The Interface Model.

Excerpts: Ray Anderson
Conversation 1 RealAudio3:32

The next industrial revolution will see business and industry leading the environmental cause, Ray Anderson believes. He is convinced we must revolutionize today’s take-make-waste processes and products, move from linear process and products to cyclical ones that mirror nature’s course, create more value from less of the finite earth’s natural capital. Who will lead this revolution? The very corporations and businesses that are today’s greatest environmental offenders. Why? Because there is money to be made doing so. The marketplace will drive business and industry to do the right thing for the planet.

Mr. Anderson is confident that business and industry are THE institutions on earth large enough, powerful enough, wealthy enough and pervasive enough to lead the earth away from that abyss toward which the scientific community assures us we are headed -- global life support systems declining, with the quality of our rivers, oceans, wetlands, lakes, forests, farmlands, rangelands, aquifers, and air all headed in the wrong direction.

Ray Anderson is uniquely qualified to suggest industry and business can get us out of the mess the first industrial revolution has created. Mr. Anderson is the founder, President and Chief Executive Officer of Interface, Inc., now a publicly held company, the world’s largest producer of commercial floor coverings. In just four years, Interface has saved about $80 million simply by eliminating waste. It’s just a beginning but this kind of significant savings will, Mr. Anderson believes, fund his company’s future.

Until 1994, Mr. Anderson was like most other industrialists, content to comply with the law on environmental issues. Then he read Paul Hawken’s book, The Ecology of Commerce. Mr. Anderson was shocked to recognize the culprits hurtling us all toward an environmental cataclysm -- it was himself, Ray Anderson, and people just like him who together comprise business and industry. At the same time Mr. Anderson came to this rude awakening, he also formed a vision of what his company could mature into -- a business that could lead the way toward a Second Industrial Revolution by creating new ways of doing business which would sustain the earth instead of destroying it.

Under Mr. Anderson’s guidance, the people of Interface are now committed to zero waste, sustainability from the well-head and mine all the way to the customer. Then they want to move beyond sustainability (“do no harm to the earth”) to being restorative (“do good for the earth”).

It’s time for a Mid-Course Correction, Mr. Anderson urges, offering the Interface model in his book by the same title. It’s up to all of us, but particularly industry and business, to get us off our current self-destructive path, onto a sustainable course. The time is now. Ray Anderson and Interface are showing the world how. And they’re making money in the process. Spread the word.

[This Program was recorded January 13, 1999, in Atlanta, Georgia, US.]

Conversation 1

Ray Anderson describes to Paula Gordon and Bill Russell awakening to a vision of Interface, Inc. -- the petrochemical-intensive carpet manufacturing company Anderson founded and heads -- leading the Next Industrial Revolution. Customers were key to driving Anderson’s and Interface’s change of direction in a company that spans 110 countries. Led by Anderson, sales, manufacturing and research and development people are working together to create a working model of sustainability, with an eye toward being restorative.


Conversation 2

Interface has a two-part definition of sustainability: take nothing from the earth that is not renewable; do no harm to the biosphere. Mr. Anderson explains how sustainability applies in his $1.5billion publicly held company’s entire supply chain -- from mines and well-heads to customers worldwide. Anderson describes the world-wide task force which works to get more value for less, the essence of the next industrial revolution on this very finite earth. He describes the current rapid state of decline of all our life support systems -- rivers, oceans, wetlands, lakes, forests, farmlands, range lands, aquifers, the air -- caused by man-made stresses to the biosystem. Anderson recalls learning from Paul Hawkins’ book The Ecology of Commerce that he and business and industry generally are the biggest culprits of environmental degradation . Anderson also learned that only industry and business are large, powerful, wealthy and persuasive enough to lead the earth away from the abyss toward which we are hurtling. Anderson describes “nature” as the model for what industrial systems ought to look like.


Conversation 3

Achieving sustainability begins with eliminating waste, says Mr. Anderson. That stance has allowed Interface to pay for their future with “Eco-Sense,” which is saving the corporation millions of dollars. Interface’s QUEST - Quality Utilizing Employees’ Suggestions and Teamwork -- institutionalizes sustainability, starting with people’s paychecks. Mr. Anderson directly links these environmental efforts to Interface’s inclusion as one of Fortune Magazine’s 100 Best Companies in America to Work For. He personifies Interface’s efforts in “tomorrow’s child,” certain that humankind is now at a critical moment for solving our enormous environmental challenges. Mr. Anderson describes Interface’s entirely new manufacturing paradigm, starting with a complete redesign of their products and processes, focused on sustainability.


Conversation 4

Interface is making money from new approaches which Mr. Anderson describes, creating new technologies which reduce the impact of humans, moving from abusive, linear “take-make-waste” processes to cyclical processes powered by renewable energies. There are fortunes to be made in getting to that state, says Mr. Anderson, as well as policies to be formulated, taxation and incentives to be developed and investments to be made. He credits Rachel Carson for starting this next Industrial Revolution with her 1962 book _Silent Spring_. Anderson explains the work of the President Clinton’s Council on Sustainable Development (which Anderson co-Chairs,) focused on balancing the competing factors of social equity, the environment and the economy. He describes the “National Town Meeting for a Sustainable America” (Detroit, Michigan, May 2-5, 1999), spearheaded by General Motors, intent on drawing together 50 million Americans and 50,000 organizations focused on sustainability.


Conversation 5

Mr. Anderson describes the next Industrial Revolution as a mountain with seven “faces” to be scaled: 1.) reduce waste (which pays for all the rest;) 2.) permit only benign emissions and cyclical processes throughout the supply chain; 3.) close the loop on recycling/reclaim molecules now in landfills; 4.) drive all processes with renewable energy; 5.) use the most resource efficient transportation possible while planting trees to offset the inevitable carbon transportation creates (Interface plants a tree for every 4,000 passenger miles its people fly on commercial jets); 6.) sensitize us all to little things we can all do to inch toward sustainability, including leveraging influence with manufacturers’ suppliers; 7.) re-invent commerce so that we buy a product’s service (With Interface’s “evergreen lease,” when a customer is ready for new carpet, they return the old to Interface which the recycles it.)


Conversation 6

Ray Anderson explains his goal of moving beyond sustainable to “restorative,” from “do no harm to the earth” to “do good for the earth.” He describes how Interface can show other companies how to move toward environmentally responsible practices, eager for other industries and businesses to move further and faster than Interface has. Doing so will start with knowledge intersecting with action, using the limitless power of influence to surmount barriers, he believes. Mr. Anderson reiterates that only business and industry are big enough, powerful enough, pervasive enough to lead us into a sustainable future and reminds us that if industry and business do not lead, our society as we know it will not survive.



Fortune Magazine calls Ray Anderson’s Interface, Inc. one of the 100 Best Companies in America to Work For. Working with the people who work there has made it clear why this acknowledgement is meaningful. Jo Ann Bachman and Janet Amison who assist Mr. Anderson were unfailingly helpful and cheerful through a multitude of scheduling challenges. We are particularly grateful to Ms. Bachman. We also appreciate Michelle Moore’s help in directing us to website links.


Related Links:


Mid-Course Correction: Toward a Sustainable Enterprise—The Interface Model is published by Chelsea Green.


Our 2009 video program with Ray Anderson is available here.

Paul Hawken has continued his work toward a sustainable earth.

Other websites which Interface recommends and to which it is linked:

Founded in 1992, Business for Social Responsibility (BSR) is a US-based global resource for companies seeking to sustain their commercial success in ways that demonstrate respect for ethical values, people, communities and the environment. Through socially responsible business policies and practices, companies create value for investors, customers, employees, local communities and other stakeholders. BSR assists its members in creating that value by providing expert help as companies address the full range of corporate responsibility issues

The Green Building Council is the building industry's only balanced nonprofit consensus coalition promoting the understanding, development and accelerated implementation of "Green Building" policies, programs, technologies, standards and design practices

The Natural Step is a non-profit environmental education organization working to build an ecologically and economically sustainable society. TNS offers a framework that is based on science and serves as a compass for businesses, communities, academia, government entities and individuals working to redesign their activities to become more sustainable. Karl-Henrik Robért founded The Natural Step.

Over the past nine years, the Coalition for Environmentally Responsible Economies (CERES) has emerged as a worldwide leader in standardized corporate environmental reporting and promoting the transformation of environmental management within firms. Formed out of a unique partnership between some of America's largest institutional investors and environmental groups, CERES has pioneered an innovative, practical approach toward encouraging greater corporate responsibility on environmental issues. Interface signed the CERES principles in the Spring of 1998, and their first report will most likely be published in 1999.

World Business Council for Sustainable Development is a coalition of 125 international companies united by a shared commitment to the environment and to the principles of economic growth and sustainable development.

Best Practices for Human Settlement — this web site contains information about the winners of the Dubai Award for Sustainable Living. Interface was among the 10 winners for 1998. The award is sponsored by the Dubai Municipality in conjunction with The United Nations Centre for Human Settlements and the Together Foundation.

Rocky Mountain Institute is a nonprofit research and educational foundation with a vision across boundaries. Its mission is to foster the efficient and sustainable use of resources as a path to global security. The Institute creates, and helps individuals and the private sector to practice, new solutions to old problems mainly by harnessing the problem-solving power of market economics and of advanced techniques for resource efficiency.  Amory Lovins is a co-founder of RMI.

Trees for the Future is a non-profit, people-to-people, action program initiating environmental projects around the world. Interface contributes to Trees for the Future to plant trees to offset their air travel.

Wildlife Habitat Council is a non-profit membership organization that helps corporations manage their lands for wildlife.

Quick buttons

© 2007 The Paula Gordon Show.
All materials contained on this website are copyrighted by The Paula Gordon Show and may not be used for any commercial purpose without the express, written consent of Paula Gordon.  Non-commercial use is permitted and encouraged provided that credit is given to The Paula Gordon Show, appropriate urls cited, links are provided where possible and meaning is not altered by editing.