I can confidently say that I wouldn’t be sitting in my local coffee shop writing this blog post if Ray hadn’t given that speech. My professional vocation might not have had anything to do with environmentalism if he hadn’t planted the “sustainability” flag that day in the heart of Interface’s business operations.
Do you find it odd that we measure things in years? I mean, ordinarily it would be unusual to group anything into units of 365 (and 366 every now and again). With the prevalence of the decimal system, one might think we would mark 100 or 1,000 or even 10,000 days from the occurrence of some event. Instead, we just stick with the year and ignore such other milestones.
I think there are two reasons for this, one practical and one symbolic. Practically, given the way our calendar is constructed, it would be hard to measure the number of days since an event occurred. Can you quickly tell me what day it was 100 days ago? I didn’t think so.
Symbolically, measuring in years acknowledges the cyclical aspect of living on this beautiful planet. Regardless of how we mark the passage of time, spring is going to follow winter, which is going to follow autumn and summer. Long ago, people became attuned to this pattern and aligned their crop plantings with it. In a sense, by celebrating our holidays, birthdays and anniversaries, we recognize that we are a part of nature. As such, I find harmony in the cycle of a year, a harmony that resonates in the human spirit.
This past Thursday, our family remembered the 23rd anniversary of a significant event in our lives and in the history of Interface. On August 31, 1994, Ray delivered his famous “Spear in the Chest” speech
to a group of Interface employees. In that speech, Ray announced his intention that Interface lead the entire industrial world in becoming a truly sustainable enterprise, one that does no harm to the Earth and its natural systems.
[August 31 is also the birthday of my brother Patrick and my late paternal grandfather Jim, so a belated Happy Birthday to them!]
I can confidently say that I wouldn’t be sitting in my local coffee shop writing this blog post if Ray hadn’t given that speech. My professional vocation might not have had anything to do with environmentalism if he hadn’t planted the “sustainability” flag that day in the heart of Interface’s business operations. I also know that the world of business and industry would be much farther from authentic sustainability if that day had never happened. Ray’s influence has spread far and wide over these past 23 years.
All these years later, what makes me most proud of my grandfather is that he didn’t settle for a smaller goal. He committed to doing no harm, not just less harm. He didn’t worry about what was “achievable.” Rather, he set a high bar because he knew that a high bar is what our society needed. It’s what our society still needs.
With that in mind, I’ll be embarking on a new series of posts starting next week, profiling various companies that have set their own audacious environmental goals. Up first is Patagonia, a company that has earned my business for … you guessed it … years. See y’all next week!