If our society is successful in shifting from a cradle-to-grave consumerist system to a cradle-to-cradle sustainable system then the corporate world will have led that shift (because they are far to powerful to be dragged into it). And if that happens, then Ray Anderson would be the most revered pioneer and visionary of the entire movement.
Ray Anderson is the founder of Interface, a global leader in the carpet manufacturing business. After Ray read Paul Hawken’s book The Ecology of Commerce in 1994 he had an epiphany. He was a “plunderer of the earth”, and with his company’s global reach and manufacturing footprint, he was compelled to do his part to build a sustainable world. Anderson focused the company’s attention on sustainable decisionmaking, taking a hard look at suppliers, manufacturing processes, and the entire life cycle of all its products. They call this drive Mission Zero: “our promise to eliminate any negative impact our company may have on the environment by the year 2020″, and along the way he has found that if he can do it, anybody (and everybody) can.
Anderson says that “unless somebody leads, nobody will”, and in the last 15 years he has proven that a truly sustainable multi-national manufacturing company is entirely possible. Not only possible, but extremely profitable. In this TED speech from 2009 you’ll hear Ray and Interface’s inspiring story.