Tim Longhurst's Blog

CSR Summit: Ray Anderson notes

November 29th, 2005 · No Comments

anderson_photo2_1_1.jpgHere are some of my notes from a presentation made by Ray Anderson. Ray is the Founder and Chair of Interface Corporation, a ‘modular flooring’ (carpet) business that claims to have set sustainability at the core of its business model. You can see Ray Anderson talk about his business in the documentary, The Corporation.

Please understand that the following are my notes from Ray’s presentation made via videolink to the CSR Summit in Sydney. They may be paraphrased and were jotted by hand and typed later. They are not verbatim quotes, but are provided in good faith that some of the information may be useful.


This presentation is about how a living planet could lose its biosphere.

You and I are required to be thinkers.

Our biosphere will be lost: one polluted river at a time, one regulatory rollback at a time, one invasive species at a time, one obsolete college system at a time. In a complex tangle of millions of ways, piece by piece, the biosphere we rely on for our survival is being threatened.

We are on a long slippery slope. We are losing our world one strand of the biosphere at a time.

And we will fix it one changed mind at a time.

The book, “The Death of Birth” changed Anderson’s perspective.

Human kind is at resource overshoot of at least 120%.

As we plunder the Earth, we are stealing the future from our grandchildren.

1) Living systems are in decline.
2) The culprit is the industrial system.
3) The largest institution in the world, industry, is the only institution with the power to address these massive challenges.

To be part of the solution, you must commit your company to take the road to sustainability.

This is a problem that neds leaders: I’m a recovering plunderer.

I am helping my organisation climb Mount Sustainability.

The peak of Mt. Sustainability?
ZERO impact
ZERO footprint

The seven sides of Mt. Sustainability:
1) Eliminate waste through QUEST
2) Benign emissions
3) Renewable energy
4) Closing the loop
5) Resource efficient transportation
6) Sensitificy (something?)
7) Redesign of commerce

We must end the TAKE – MAKE – WASTE linear model of production.

We need to help achieve the buy-in of the vision.

We need to win in the marketplace by doing good.

Blend of cause and effect, effect and cause, into one giant feedback loop.

You can’t make green products in a brown company.

Biomimicary: nature as inspiration – this is key to the future.

We must end our predelection with perfection: Break the old paradigm of industry that every output must be the same.

Humans are comfortable with nature.

We must become ethically enlightened species.


IMPACT = Pollution x Affluence x Technology

We must change technology:

Fossil fuel driven
Focused on resource productivity

Only 3% of the products we produce have value after 6 months.

We must cut the oil umbillical chord with the Earth.

We must address externalities through full cost accounting: the kind of accounting that would bring the cost of war in Iraq into the cost of a barrel of oil, making a single barrel valued at approximately US$200.

We must shift the design paradigm from “Nothing left to add” to “Nothing left to remove.”

We require a vast redesign of the system.

Jerard Diamond’s COLLAPSE reminds us that cultural survival and biological survival are not linked: you can have a thriving society that masks the fracturing biology.

What is the prevailing paradigm? The flawed world view? Consumerism.

It treats the Earth as if it were infinite.

The oil peak is coming to remind us how flawed this view is.

We need to think seven generations forward to realise that we are linked with nature.

Contrary to advertising claims, consumption does not lead to happiness.

The environment is the parent, the economy is the child.

The hurricanes in the US (Katrina, Wilma, Rita) are the elephant in the room, reminding us that climate change is real.

We challenge nature at our peril.

Business is shaping minds and governments. How are they doing so far?

Who is being heard?

Who will lead?

Why not you?

CEOs who are founders and inheritors will be the first to lead their organisations to sustainability. The hire+fire CEOs will be forced to follow.

We need to increase our level of awareness.

Interface has sponsored a “Chair of Natural Systems” at Georgia Tech to examine the way natural systems create strong, light products using freely abundant minerals at relatively low temperature.

Know what’s going on in the world. Be leaders.

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Category: Our living planet

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