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The Business Logic of Sustainability: Conscience + Sustainability = $489 Billion

Our summary of Ray Anderson’s TED Talk, on how he transformed his company to a sustainable model, and DOUBLED PROFITS.

Ray Anderson is the founder and chairman of Interface, a global carpet company that for 21 years functioned on the traditional "take/make/waste" industrial system. After reading The Ecology of Commerce, by Paul Hawkins, he drastically changed the model and is aiming for 100% sustainability by 2020. This change has increased sales and doubled profits.

Example of carpeting from Interface, link.

His mottos:

  • “Take nothing, do no harm.”

  • “Unless somebody leads, nobody will.”

  • “Theft is a crime. And theft of our children’s future will someday be a crime.”

  • “If something exists, it must be possible.”

Ray Anderson during his TED Talk.

His TED Talk is about how he developed an ecological conscience, completely changed his company, and made $489 billion doing it. Here are the major points:

  • Business and industry are massively mistreating the Earth and causing the decline of the biosphere.

  • A “fundamental perspective change” is what he experienced in 1994 when he read The Ecology of Commerce, by Paul Hawkins.

  • He defined sustainability as: “eventually operating his petroleum intensive company in such a way as to take from the earth only what can be renewed naturally and rapidly. Not another fresh drop of oil, and to do no harm to the biosphere.”

  • The "take/make/waste" model is from the first industrial revolution in the 19th Century. It is:

- Extractive: Takes raw materials from the earth, - Fossil fuel-derived energy, - Wasteful as products and packaging are thrown away - Abusive and focused on labor productivity.

  • The sustainable model for the current industrial revolution replaces:

- Extractive with renewables, - Fossil fuel energy with renewable energy, - Wasteful with waste-free, - Abusive with benign and labor productivity with resource productivity.

  • More details on the Interface Sustainability page.

From Interface’s sustainability page.

Interface’s Achievements to date:

  • Net greenhouse gas emissions down 82%.

  • Sales have increased by two-thirds and profits have doubled.

  • Our products are the highest quality they have ever been.

  • 90% reduction in greenhouse gas intensity relative to sales.

  • Fossil fuel usage is down 60% per unit of production.

  • Water usage is down 75%.

  • Renewable or recyclable materials are 25% growing rapidly.

  • Renewable energy is 27%, going for 100 percent.

  • We have diverted 76,132,000 kg of used carpet from landfills.

  • We are over halfway to our goal of zero impact, zero footprint. We are set to reach that goal by 2020.

  • This Mission Zero has been incredibly good for business. It is a better business model, and a better way to bigger profits.

Example of carpeting from Interface, link.

Link to the video of Ray Anderson's TED Talk on The Bussiness Logic of Sustainability

The point: If your company is still working on a traditional "take/make/waste" model, then it is operating on a model that is over two hundred years old, which is unsustainable, and must change if your company is to survive. And it can be profitable. It has been done. It is possible.

To je možné. To je možné. To je možné!

If you found this interesting you might also like:

  • The Investment Logic for Sustainability

  • Let's Go All In on Sustainability





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