In 1994, Ray experienced what he calls "The Spear in the Chest Epiphany" after reading The Ecology of Commerce by Paul Hawken. Ray dives into the world of sustainability and begins to shape business practices with a sustainable lens. Ray said, "The only way the Earth can change is if business, the most pervasive and influential force on the planet, is willing to lead." Interface, along with Ray, became that leader.
Ray inspires a generation of sustainable manufacturers with his first speech at the United States Green Building Council's Big Sky retreat. Ray starts to gather his "Dream Team" of ecofriendly adventurers. This group of advisors begins to help Interface with its new mission.
Ray's greatest reinforcement and sense of accomplishment comes in the form of a poem written by Glenn Thomas. Composed for tomorrow's child, this poem helps to strengthen Ray's resolve for spreading the word on sustainability, not only for the good of the planet, but for future generations.
Ray was awarded the Corporate Environment Leadership award by Global Green USA
At a global sales meeting in Hawaii, Ray speaks to an audience of 1,200 associates from around the world and an iconic metaphor is born. In his speech, Ray tells the story of a company's journey climbing Mount Sustainability. Interface and Mount Sustainability become a universal metaphor for the challenges and rewards sustainable manufacturing is facing. Interface publishes an influential sustainability report that sets the international standard for reporting.
Ray publishes Mid-Course Correction: Toward a Sustainable Enterprise: The Interface Model. Ray introduces himself to a wider audience outside the business world thanks to Barbara Pyle's video series, "The Power of One." The idea of sustainability is introduced through Ray's articulated vision on camera: renewable energy, the end of smokestacks, and the war on waste.
FORTUNE publishes an article that showcases Ray's adherence to sustainability and his fight to bring other "plunderers" to the light. He reinforces his belief that, some day, the leadership of companies that take from the planet without thought will be imprisoned due to the grievous damage they are imparting on the planet. Ray brought this clarity of vision to his role as chair of the President's Council for Sustainable Development under President Clinton.
Ray's sustainable vision starts to build steam internationally as he tours the world and speaks at a closed United Nations session on environment and business. Ray tours New Zealand, Australia and other progressive markets, telling the success story of Interface and reinforcing his plan to never use another drop of oil. This attention not only attracts environmentalists, but also other corporate leaders who are eager to change.
Ray receives the George and Cynthia Mitchell Award from a mission-driven grantmaking foundation that seeks innovative, sustainable solutions for human and environmental problems. This award adds to a growing list of honors Ray has received after making his transition to sustainable enterprise. Later in the year, Ray addresses the White House Conference on the Environment, imploring the government to de-politicize the environment.
Dispelling the costly myths associated with sustainability, Ray publishes Interface's annual report showcasing how profitable Interface became since embracing this idea. The report shows other companies that sustainability inspires Interface's employees, leading to new and better technological innovations in the field.
Invited to a Walmart retreat with senior leaders, Ray plots a course for the company towards a more sustainable enterprise. By leading a big brand leader like Walmart down this path, Ray cements his legacy as the premier voice on sustainability. Ray becomes an unlikely celebrity in the entertainment industry as the documentary The Corporation gains popularity for its likeable hero. He embarks on a film tour with the creators, exposing the film public to his efforts and his personality. His off the grid vacation home also exemplifies that he is practicing what he preaches in his everyday life.
FLOR, a carpet tile business for residential consumers, aims to bring the public a sustainable residential carpet tile option. With sustainability at the product's core, FLOR becomes a breakthrough for residential consumers. This product helps to highlight the innovations that have become commonplace at Interface since the journey to sustainability.
Creative Loafing is a small, alternative weekly that features an unlikely person on its cover: a corporate CEO. This iconic image showcases Ray holding the Earth in his hands under a headline that branded Ray as "The Greenest Capitalist." This article dissects Interface's journey to sustainability and acknowledges that Ray is "the poster boy for the movement."
With George Stroumboulopoulos, Ray confesses his plans to the Canadian public. Covering a wide range of topics, Ray talks about how close Interface is to being sustainable and how much waste his company has cut down while growing. Ray even talks about his authoring a "100 Day Action Plan" for President Obama.
The best platform for radical ideas, TED, allows Ray to showcase his personality, company, and the case for sustainability. This moving talk is delivered to a new and impactful audience and continues to inspire others online. Within this timeframe, Ray follows up his first book with Confessions of a Radical Industrialist, which covered the journey of Interface in addition to the seven fronts to sustainability.
Paul Hawken, whose book started Ray on his journey, gives an emotional tribute to Ray. Paul lauded Ray not only as a visionary and pioneer, but also as a poet and friend. The audience learns that Ray has been diagnosed with cancer, and there is not a dry eye in the house as Ray accepts his award from the USGBC.
Ray was awarded USGBC Leadership Award
at the U.S. Green Building Council Conference
In his farewell address to his company's future leaders, Ray's impassioned speech helps to reinforce the goals that Interface is striving towards. Appreciative of the commitment from his workforce, Ray implores Interface employees to "Dream big! Keep hustling!" because he will be with them every step of the way in body and in spirit. Believing in his team's vision and direction, Ray retires from the spotlight and focuses on his health.