Monday Mar 19

KIG Episode 3: Interface - sustainable business leader

I first learned about Interface when I saw its CEO, Ray Anderson, interviewed in the excellent documentary "The Corporation." He spoke about his conversion from a corporate "plunderer" (his words) to a believer in sustainable, profitable business. I was struck by his honesty about the environmental damage his global carpet company had done in the past, and was inspired by his passion for bringing new solutions to the industry.

So I was thrilled to meet with Jim Hartzfeld, who leads Interface's new consulting arm -- Interface RAISE -- which teaches other businesses how to be more sustainable. Jim was so much fun to talk to.  He's got a great sense of humor and is a wonderful storyteller.

Jim has been involved with Interface's transformation since the beginning -- in the 1990's when the company first started addressing its environmental impact, and Ray Anderson led the way with a new perspective gained from reading from Paul Hawken's book, The Ecology of Commerce.

What I love about the Interface story is that Anderson had a change of heart -- and a change of mind -- about how to do business. He realized the moral imperative to take environmental impact into account when making business decisions, and transformed his company's entire operation while maintaining its profitability.  He's a true leader.

OK, so maybe you don't run your own global multi-million dollar company.  What can you do to improve things?

  • Support sustainable businesses. Especially ones that are green to the core -- companies like Interface that are dedicated on a large scale to sustainable business practices and aren't just trying to make a buck on the new green "trend". Co-op America's Green Pages are an excellent starting point to find green businesses. Or try out our Green Maven search widget in the left column to find green products: just type in any search term (e.g. socks) and get the green result (e.g. organic cotton socks).
  • Bring sustainability to whatever business you're in. You can make sure you're reusing and recycling printer paper, or using CFL bulbs instead of incandescent. Or maybe you drive a few blocks to lunch every day, but could actually walk. Does your company have a bike rack for employees? They're easy to install. There are a lot of simple steps you can take to make your workplace greener. Here are some great tips.
  • Stay inspired and optimistic that positive change can and will happen. Twenty years ago, Ray Anderson never thought that he'd be an expert in sustainable business. He was ready to retire when he was exposed to environmental messages that struck a chord. We are all capable of growth and transformation in unexpected ways - be open to it happening for you and others.


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