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In Memoriam: Ray Anderson

“Visionary Entrepreneur and Champion for the Environment, Has Died at Age 77,” says a press release of 8 August 2011. Ray Anderson was indeed a visionary entrepreneur and champion for the environment, and the world has lost a great leader at a time when we need such people urgently. The wonderful thing to remember about Ray’s life is that he encouraged others, tirelessly as far as I can tell. His leadership extended far beyond his own company and industry. His books, especially the latest, Confessions of a Radical Industrialist (St. Martin’s Press, 2009) , will continue to inspire, and Ray’s influence will continue to be felt through the work of all the people he has encouraged, supported, and instructed.

I count myself as one of those people, and feel a great sense of responsibility as we bring the Berkshire Encyclopedia of Sustainability to completion because this major work is published, and catalogued with Library of Congress, as edited by “Ray C. Anderson, et al.” Ray has been a member of the editorial advisory board since I was taken to meet him in Atlanta in 2007 by C. S. Kiang, then  dean of the College of Environmental Sciences at Peking University. He said he was glad to support such an ambitious project and that indeed I could, as C. S. requested, use his name. That “use” extended further when I had to decide how to list the editors for the work as a whole, long before the whole set was complete (it is still in progress: the final volume will be published in Spring 2012). Ray’s name had long lead the list of editorial advisors and he had introduced me to Chris Laszlo, who became senior editor of The Business of Sustainability (which was to have been Volume 1, and in fact became Volume 2). I asked him, with some trepidation, if he would be willing not only listed but to be listed first at the Library of Congress as the first editor of this massive and yet-unfinished encyclopedia. He agreed immediately. His vote of confidence and trust means a great deal to me and to the other people (numbering over 800 now) working on the encyclopedia.

There are many people I work with whom I never met in person, but I’m glad that Ray is not one of them. His graciousness and humor were clear that day when we met in his offices overlooking the whole of Atlanta. I felt grateful then and feel even more grateful now that he recognized the educational importance of what we were setting out to do. In his last email to me, he said this, “I’m very impressed with the progress you have made and wish you good luck and a wind at your back.” Ray has done much to give all of us the wind we need to do the work that lies ahead.

Here is Joel Makower’s blog piece about Ray, and many comments from his readers. And the press release from Interface Inc., “Visionary Entrepreneur and Champion for the Environment, Has Died at Age 77.” I’ve also pasted the text below:

Visionary Entrepreneur and Champion for the Environment, Has Died at Age 77

ATLANTA, Aug. 8, 2011 /PRNewswire via COMTEX/ — Ray C. Anderson, founder and Chairman of Interface, Inc. IFSIA +3.07% , lost a 20-month battle with cancer today. Surrounded by his family, he died at his home in Atlanta, it was announced by Company President and Chief Executive Officer Dan Hendrix.

An honors graduate of Georgia Institute of Technology’s school of industrial and systems engineering in 1956, Anderson founded Interface in 1973 to produce the first free-lay carpet tiles in America. Interface would revolutionize the commercial floorcovering business, but it is for his legendary environmental epiphany in 1994 for which he will best be remembered. Anderson transitioned from day-to-day management of the Company in 2001 when Dan Hendrix became CEO, and spent the next 10 years as non-executive Chairman, focusing his time and energy on the business case for sustainability, delivering more than 1,000 speeches and authoring two books on the topic.

Interface CEO Dan Hendrix said: “Not only did Interface and the world lose a great man today, but I lost a friend and mentor. Ray’s iconic spirit and pioneering vision are not only his legacy, but our future. We will honor Ray by keeping his vision alive and the Company on course.”

Interface, Inc. is the world’s largest manufacturer of modular carpet, which it markets under the InterfaceFLOR, FLOR, Heuga and Bentley Prince Street brands, and, through its Bentley Prince Street brand, enjoys a leading position in the designer quality segment of the broadloom carpet market. The Company is committed to the goal of sustainability and doing business in ways that minimize the impact on the environment while enhancing shareholder value.

SOURCE Interface, Inc.

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