A green businessman who increased profits

Check out the metrics. If the looney left told more stories like this we would all be more inclined to believe in green stuff.

Interface, he decided, would leave no print on the green-and-blue carpet of the world. By 2020 it would take nothing from the earth that could not be rapidly replenished. It would produce no greenhouse-gas emissions and no waste. That meant using renewables rather than fossil fuel; endeavouring to make carpet tiles out of carbohydrate polymers rather than petroleum; and recycling old-carpet sludge into pellets that could be used as backing.

Some of the technologies Mr Anderson hoped for (and half-envisaged, as a graduate in systems engineering from his much-loved Georgia Tech) had not been invented when he started. Several colleagues thought he had gone round the bend again. He had to bring them along slowly, in his quiet way, until they “got it” by themselves. But by 2007 the company was, he reckoned, about halfway up “Mount Sustainability”. Greenhouse-gas emissions by absolute tonnage were down 92% since 1995, water usage down 75%, and 74,000 tonnes of used carpet had been recovered from landfills. The $400m he was saving each year by making no scrap and no off-quality tiles more than paid for the R&D and the process changes. As much as 25% of the company’s new material came from “post-consumer recycling”. And he was loaded with honours and awards as the greenest businessman in America.

Most satisfying of all, sales had increased by two-thirds since his conversion, and profits had doubled. For Mr Anderson always kept his eye on the bottom line. He could be sentimental, ending his many public speeches with an apologetic poem to “Tomorrow’s Child” written by an employee after one of his pep talks, but he was only half a dreamer. His company was his child, too. Profits mattered. This made some greens snipe at him, but it also made Walmart send two of its senior people round to his factory in LaGrange to see what he was doing right. As a success, he could powerfully influence others.


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  • diabolos

    Interface are famous and represented in NZ too. The difference with these guys is they preach sustainability in economic terms – not just muesli and bicycle clips and shitting in a jerry can masquerading as a composting toilet.

  • John Q Public

    A sustainable bushiness is one that continues to make a profit- Thomas Edison.

    • diabolos

      My point exactly mate – they believe in economic sustainability – that involves preserving a bottom line…

  • thor42

    I’m really interested in the US military’s work with getting their fuel from algae.
    (The article has a correction in it which says that production will begin in 2013, not 2011 as shown below.)

    “Darpa’s research projects have already extracted oil from algal ponds at a cost of $2 per gallon. It is now on track to begin large-scale refining of that oil into jet fuel, at a cost of less than $3 a gallon, according to Barbara McQuiston, special assistant for energy at Darpa.”
    “”Darpa has achieved the base goal to date,” she said. “Oil from algae is projected at $2 per gallon, headed towards $1 per gallon.” McQuiston said a larger-scale refining operation, producing 50 million gallons a year, would come on line in 2011. ”

    This is good stuff. If this all goes well, it’s likely that the same process will be used to create fuels for non-military users – i.e. us.

    • diabolos

      What fascinates me thor – is how so little has been done to advance the availability of biofuels in this country – or alternative fuels fullstop.

      Or yes – oil from algae. Household living costs could drop dramatically in this car dependant country – if we had a viable alternative to the normal.

      The environment – is subject to people being able to live and make a decent living. Thats the first base of sustainability in my view. Then we can get fancy.

    • greenmuppet

      Now you’ve got me upset. I’ve been flushing the now valuable “brown” commodity for years all for nothing instead of building up the reserves.

      Seriously, there is nothing wrong with doing business the green way for as long as there is genuine market demand for it. Not the kind of market helen clark & friends were dreaming of where everyone has one choice – bio blended fuel as an example.

      The market demand is a combination of the three: you have choice for it, you want it and you can afford it – any business operating under these conditions is worthwhile , regardless of their colour,

      An alternative way to preserving the profit is to engineer a captive market through regulation, taxation and restriction of supply. Understandably, this is favoured approach by the green/left forces. When someone talks about sustainable green business this is the first thing that springs to my mind. I may well be wrong.

      • diabolos

        Personally speaking – i favour a balance of regulation and freemarket with provisos that Government and country are for the people – not JUST for the enrichment of corporates.

        Interface did what they did in a mostly non regulated market – and then took it global.

        Dont swallow all of the free market bullshit mate … markets have always been managed, directed, regulated etc since the first prostitute hung out her shingle on a dingy backstreet in Babylon when mesopotamia laid the foundations of Western capitalism.

  • rouppe

    As a suc­cess, he could pow­er­fully influ­ence others.

    This is the sentence that is most important. The NZ Greens have no idea about success. They just want to influence with a stick.

    • Apart from the fact that he is now dead.

      • diabolos

        shit does happen …

  • Dave Guerin

    You should check out this blog post a month back from Greens’ Wgtn Central candidate James Shaw http://jamesshaw.net.nz/2011/08/farewell-ray-anderson/

    James met Ray Anderson, who became an inspiration for him.