Earlier today, I interviewed Ray Anderson, founder and Chairman of Interface Corporation for my next book. If you’ve watched the documentary The Corporation, or kept up with activist CEO’s pushing sustainability — Ray is THE GUY. Way back in 1994 he realized that a company must be ethical to future generations and redesign for sustainability.
Ray believes this as a moral and business issue. He believes that we cannot tax future generations to make money today. He believes that if we just conduct business-as-usual and use more than we put back, we are plunderers, thieves. He also believes that we need to go beyond compliance, what he calls “as bad as the law would allow.” In short, I love this guy and his perspective. He’s right. How are you/I any different than the Enron gang if we steal from future generations (as opposed to today’s)???
In his compelling 1998 book, Mid-Course Correction, Ray argues that companies are a solely owned subsidiary of the planet — not vice versa! He says that many people, business and even economies need a mid-course correction to survive. The book is passionate, intelligent and will give any reader a blueprint on how to built a business for good.
Ray believes that a company has to go beyond zero impact (that is their goal by 2020, very lofty for a carpet manufacturer) and aspire to be restorative. Put something back. Grow trees, improve water quality, patch the ozone layer. Much of that depends on innovation out of the control of most, but Ray gives everyone a chance to be restorative by being an influence to others. If you and your company can convince one of your suppliers or competitors to reduce to zero, you create more end value than you take out. That’s an easy one for anyone reading this blog to do. Buy Mid-Course Correction, read it and give it to one of your suppliers. Tell them that you want to know what they are doing about sustainability. If you have any influence on them, you may change the world.
PS — I’m classifying this as a leadership issue, because every leader should see the social value revolution coming a mile away. The next generation of leaders will be proactive in helping their company get as good as producing social value as they are at producing profits. They will emerge from the pile as the ones that “got-it”.