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In the complex world of business—much like in nature—even the smallest, seemingly inconsequential change can ignite overwhelmingly significant impact. Science has coined this concept The Butterfly Effect, so named after the idea that the flapping of a butterfly's wings could set off a ripple effect that influences a large-scale chain of events. Ray C. Anderson (1934-2011), founder of Interface, Inc., was such a force.

As an impassioned entrepreneur, Ray turned his company's focus toward environmental stewardship and never looked back. This seemingly small change distinguished him as the radical industrialist who would usher in a new age of industrial sustainability and inspire others to break institutional inertia and innovate a brighter world together.

In his 2009 TED talk, Interface Founder Ray Anderson shares his story of how he turned the traditional "take / make / waste" industrial system on its head while building a profitable manufacturing company. In a gentle, understated way, he shares a powerful vision for sustainable commerce.

 

 

The ripples that Ray created are felt far and wide, from the desks of corporate offices to the assembly lines of industrial production houses. Discover how others describe Ray's influence.

Dianne Dillon-Ridgley, Acting Executive Director, Women's Network for a Sustainable Future

"...Ray was a true HERO, hero of the Earth, hero of hope and a hero for the future. I'm often asked who are the Ray C. Andersons going forward?....there is only one answer—we each have to be!" ...Read more

Bob Fox, Partner, Cook+Fox Architects and Terrapin Bright Green

"Ray Anderson is my hero. His ability to focus on making a difference on a grand scale has been my inspiration since the day I met him. My only wish is to inspire others to do the same..." ...Read more

Marie & Steve Nygren, Serenbe

"...Ray introduced us to environmental concepts, leaders and thinkers of the day and the journey which began as an effort to save our own back yard has now evolved into a model visited by people from all over the United States, South America, Europe and China..." ...Read more

Rick Fedrizzi, President, CEO & Founding Chair, U.S. Green Building Council

"...Ray knew he had within himself the intelligence, the passion, and the tireless perseverance that would be required if he wanted to take "the spear in his chest" and turn it into a lever that would change the world. And so he did..." ...Read more

June Henton, Dean, College of Human Sciences, Auburn University

"...Ray inspired me, not only to engage in the Interface, Inc. quest to become sustainable by 2020, but to lead a human sustainability movement of Universities Fighting World Hunger." ...Read more

Tony Cortese, President & Co-Founder, Second Nature

"Ray was a great mentor, colleague and friend who was an endless source of inspiration. His clarity of purpose, strength of character and his dogged pursuit of a dream for a better society leading through example was a major force in helping me stay the course through very challenging times in trying to transform higher education's teaching and practice..." ...Read more

 

The consummate southern gentleman meets the radical industrialist.

 

Ray was a gifted storyteller and inspirational catalyst who changed the way we think about consumerism and production.

His masterful penchant for storytelling was matched only by his uncompromising determination to brighten his corner of the world. What started as one person's mission to change his company's thinking stimulated a greater transformation: one that carried with it the momentum to break from the status quo.

As a beacon for change, Ray introduced a new concept to the business and industrial world that would have far-reaching impact: doing the right thing was not only smart for business but also necessary for tomorrow's child.  This ethical responsibility established a new standard for leadership that earned him recognition as America's Greenest CEO.

His guiding light inspires us to continue his legacy. Built on principles of innovation and change, and guided by a team of passionate advocates, The Ray C. Anderson Foundation is committed to supporting and funding projects that ensure future generations inherit a world where healthy and functioning natural systems support all life.

An insight into the inception of the Ray C. Anderson Foundation. The trustees and advisory board members share their thoughts and hopes for the Foundation at Serenbe Farms during the formation of the Foundation's vision and mission.

Funding

Funding innovative ideas and projects that promote visionary change in society.

Educating

Educating the public and business leaders alike in meaningful ways that propel revolutionary, sustainable change.

Inspiring

Inspiring a new generation of leaders and consumers to be good stewards of the planet's resources, igniting action that radically impacts the way we live, work and play.

Connecting

Connecting thinkers, builders, innovators and idealists to a shared, ethical responsibility to the environment.

 

Ray often challenged his team to push the limits on innovation by giving them what was known as "gray notes," short questions and comments to inspire and ignite new ideas and advance the next steps to action.

The Ray C. Anderson Foundation seeks to keep the spirit of the gray note alive. Through our granting process, we will issue the same challenge to people around the world to help lend shape to a brighter future through education and research.

What bold, new ideas are you thinking about? What innovative things will you try? What will you create? Click here for our Gray Notes Grant Information.

If not now, when?
If not you, who?

Ray C. Anderson inspired us to change the way we think, and much like the butterfly's wings, he set off a chain of events that created change so profound it caused a global break from tradition and ignited our imagination to innovate new ways of thinking.

He showed us that the changes each of us makes—no matter how small—can have immeasurable impact. Together, we can usher in a brighter world inherited by tomorrow's child. Will you join us?

Stay in touch as the story of the Ray C. Anderson Foundation continues to unfold.

About Ray Anderson

He was called by many names: son, brother, husband, father, uncle, friend, grandfather—even great grandfather. He was known as President, CEO, Chairman, trusted advisor, mentor, teacher, visionary, servant leader, champion of the earth and the world's greenest CEO.

His life's journey moved him from the football field and classrooms of Georgia Tech to performing on the world stage as a leading voice in industrial sustainability. In 1994, at the height of his success with Interface—a company he had built from a dream, grit and determination—he was challenged with a question that would define the rest of his life: "What is your company doing for the environment?" In an effort to discover the answer to that question, he read a book by Paul Hawken. The Ecology of Commerce made him aware for the first time that Interface was doing much more to harm the environment than to protect it.

This "spear in the chest" epiphany led to what Ray later called his Mid-Course Correction—the beginning of his quest to prove that sustainability was not just the right thing to do, it was the smart thing to do for business.

His mission led him to deliver his message from shop floors to the White House. He was clear, direct and demanding. Anchored in the values of his West Point, Georgia rural roots he pulled from life's lessons to captivate audiences with his stories. When asked how to overcome the challenges and complexities facing the world, his advice came in the words of a Sunday school hymn he learned while a child—Brighten the Corner Where You Are. He pushed, prodded, inspired and chided all who would listen. He challenged us all to create a better world for tomorrow's child.

Yes, he was called by many names—to the Foundation we call him our inspiration.

Meet Our Advocates

Vision & Mission

We are a powerful voice in helping champion a better world for tomorrow's child. As a result of our commitment, focus and influence, future generations will inherit a world where healthy and functioning natural systems support all life.

The Ray C. Anderson Foundation seeks to promote a sustainable society by supporting and pioneering initiatives that harmonize society, business and the environment for the present generation and tomorrow's child.

We will achieve this mission through inspiring and funding innovative, educational and project-based initiatives.

2009 TED talk

Tomorrow's Child

The Foundation