Business Lessons from a Radical Industrialist How a CEO Doubled Earnings , Inspired Employees and Created Innovation from One Simple Idea

Ray C. Anderson with Robin White

St. Martin's Griffin



Trade Paperback

336 Pages


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In 1994, Interface founder and chairman Ray Anderson set an audacious goal for his commercial carpet company: to take nothingfrom the earth that can't be replaced by the earth. Now, Anderson leads the way forward and challenges all of industry to share that goal.

The Interface story is a compelling one: in 1994, making carpets was a toxic, petroleum-based process, releasing immense amounts of air and water pollution and creating tons of waste. Fifteen years after Anderson's call for change, Interface has:
—cut greenhouse gas emissions by 82%—cut fossil fuel consumption by 60%—cut waste by 66%—cut water use by 75%—invented and patented new machines, materials, and manufacturing processes—increased sales by 66%, doubled earnings, and raised profit margins

With practical ideas and measurable outcomes that every business can use, Anderson shows that profit and sustainability are not mutually exclusive; businesses can improve their bottom lines and do right by the earth.

Ray Anderson is featured in the film, So Right, So Smart, which takes a behind-the-scenes look at how his leadership transformed Interface into a company with a sustainable business practices that made it more profitable than it was before. For more information about the film, please visit:


Praise for Business Lessons from a Radical Industrialist

"This is radical stuff. It makes sense that Anderson's recent memoir was called Business Lessons from a Radical Industrialist, because that's exactly what he is. It's a message that corporate America needs to hear—that the only kind of true growth is sustainable growth, and that everything else is essentially a Ponzi scheme."—Brian Walsh, Time magazine

"Ray Anderson is a personal inspiration for me and for anyone trying to find their way in this new world of green business. He may be ‘radical' but he's also a profit-seeking businessman. Confessions tells an amazing first-hand story of a personal and business transformation, a journey from being a cold-eyed capitalist to being . . . a cold-eyed capitalist, but just with a much larger perspective on what profitable really means. Ray has found a new path that's good for the planet and great for his business. He's showing the world how it's done yet again."—Andrew Winston, environmental strategist, author of Green Recovery and co-author of Green to Gold

"If we had a lot more businessmen like Ray Anderson, the planet would be neither bankrupt nor overheated. He is a hero, and this book makes clear why!"—Bill McKibben, author of Deep Economy

"We are in desperate need of hope in this world, but if hope is to be credible and trustworthy, it has to walk a straight line to reality. No one does this better than Ray Anderson."—Paul Hawken, author of Ecology of Commerce, Natural Capitalism, and Blessed Unrest

"Anyone who thinks that business leadership on environmental sustainability is an oxymoron must read Confessions of a Radical Industrialist. In a humble, inspiring and informative manner, Ray Anderson describes his own journey to not just tweak the edges of his business towards green goals but to fundamentally re-think and re-design every aspect of its operations to respect environmental limits. My only hesitation is that we cannot clone Ray Anderson . . . or perhaps we can? Let's hope that Confessions of a Radical Industrialist becomes required reading in all business, industrial design, and economics classes so that our next generation of business leaders continue in the direction that Anderson has begun."—Annie Leonard, author of The Story of Stuff

"Ray put everything he has built at his company on the line for what he believed and created a model of profitable sustainability and humanity. This tale of how and why is a great story of a good man. We sure do need more radical industrialists."—Jonathan Lash, President of World Resources Institute

"Anderson, called by Time magazine 'a hero of the environment,' transformed his carpet-manufacturing company, Interface, to 100 percent sustainability. Now he offers a highly inspirational book, showing how, starting in 1994, he steered his company 'on a new course—one designed to reduce our environmental footprint while increasing our profits.' His own inspiration came from Paul Hawken's The Ecology of Commerce: A Declaration of Sustainability. Anderson's company cut greenhouse gas emissions by 82 percent, eight of ten Interface plants have achieved the 100 percent renewable energy mark, and the company uses 100 percent recycled yarn for carpets. While implementing these green initiatives, the company increased sales by 66 percent, doubled earnings, and raised profit margin. Crucially, Anderson describes the organizational and managerial steps that he took to achieve these goals . . . Essential reading for anyone, whether lay, student, or practitioner, interested in business success today and in the environment."—Library Journal

"In 1994, after reading Paul Hawken's The Ecology of Commerce, carpet mogul Anderson decided to make his carpet company Interface, established in 1973, the first company to achieve 100 percent sustainability, a massively successful effort that has made him a sought-after business consultant (clients include Walmart) as well as an environmental hero. Sustainability, argues Anderson, makes just as much business sense as it does a liberal crusade, and he even makes absorbing reading out of the process that transformed his operations. Interface developed processes for recycling old carpets, invented a leased carpet program (too much ahead of its time, admits Anderson), utilized the work of indigenous peoples, switched over to solar and other alternative energy sources, reduced water use and contamination, and, in 2007, even managed to achieve negative net greenhouse gas emissions. What is even more impressive is that Interface achieved this globall—not just in the U. S.—while growing profits . . . The story of Anderson's commitment to green practices and the wild success he achieved is fascinating, instructive, and very timely."—Publishers Weekly

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Read an Excerpt

1 Mission Zero

I am Ray Anderson, and in addition to being a husband, a father, and a grandfather, I'm an industrialist. Some would say a radical industrialist. Time magazine called me a "Hero of the Environment." U.S....

Read the full excerpt



  • Ray C. Anderson on Business Lessons from a Radical Industrialist

    "This is real sustainability in action."



  • Ray C. Anderson with Robin White

  • Ray C. Anderson was the founder and chairman of Atlanta-based carpet manufacturer Interface Inc. He was named one of Time magazine's Heroes of the Environment and one of's Top 15 Green Business Leaders in 2007. He and Interface have been featured in three documentary films, including The Corporation and So Right, So Smart. He co-chaired the President's Council on Sustainable Development and the Presidential Climate Action Project. He and Interface have been featured in The New York Times, Fortune, Fast Company, and many other publications.

  • Ray C. Anderson
    Ray C. Anderson