Ray Anderson, of Interface, has spent the last 52 years making carpet out of petroleum products, creating a mess for the Earth in the process. In his TED Talk, he describes how he transformed his company. He read Paul Hawken’s book, The Ecology of Commerce seeking a way to minimize his company’s pollution impact. Paul suggests that industry is the biggest polluter of the Earth, and the only institution large enough and powerful enough to lead us out of environmental degradation. Ray Anderson decided to lead the way, setting an example for other businesses to follow.
Ray says it’s not an either/or argument, either the environment or the economy. It’s both/and. We can run both sustainable businesses and be profitable. In fact, businesses can be even more profitable if they adopt sustainable practices. Sales increased by two-thirds and profits doubled as Interface adopted sustainable practices. Ray created a vision for his employees: to believe in and serve something larger than themselves. They all committed to a vision of zero impact by 2020.
Ray was given a poem written by Glenn Thomas, one of his employees call Tomorrow’s Child. It expresses how we steal from future generations and calls us to devote ourselves to protecting the world today. It really comes down to choice, says Ray. Do we choose to help the Earth or hurt it? Choosing to help transforms our thinking. We shift our focus from “me” to “we.” If we all start thinking beyond our own individual needs toward our collective needs, then we’ll sustain a planet for many future generations. This same kind of thinking helps our climbing too. If we focus on “we”—the rock and me —then our attention will flow outward toward the rock we’re interacting with. We’ll grab holds with care, to blend with the rock, not to fight it. Blending leads us to energy efficiency and sustains our efforts and the rock as we climb.