Vale Ray Anderson.

Ray was a sustainability maverick, often called

“the greenest CEO in America for his crusade to turn his billion-dollar carpet company into an environmentally sustainable enterprise.”

He died last week at his home in Atlanta, at 77. He was the founder of Interface carpet manufacturers – the largest producer of commercial carpet tiles. For 20 years, he ran the business in compliance with government regulations, but in 1994 he read Paul Hawken‘s book ‘The Ecology of Commerce‘. He then said:

“It was like a spear in the chest..I was convicted as a plunderer of the Earth.”

However the book was more than an indictment, it was also a call to action, generating a new vision to energise the corporation and to begin a chain reaching throughout industry.

In this TED video Ray Anderson describes how he changed his petro-intensive business to a regenerative service cycle. He said:

“Let’s have ‘More happiness with less stuff’.”

Ray set 2020 as his ‘Mission Zero goal’ – a commitment to eliminate any environmental impacts by this year.

Shortly before his death, he estimated that the company was more than halfway towards this vision.

Accolades have been heaped on Ray by entrepreneurial environmentalists such as Paul Hawken, who, in 1998, co-authored the much acclaimed ‘Natural Capitalism – The Next Industrial Revolution.”

Australian Business Coach Leigh Baker Advises On Regenerative Business

In her book ‘The Deep Green Profit Handbook‘ Leigh says:

“Don’t decide between ‘green OR profitable’. Now you can play the new game of ‘green AND profitable’.”

Both big companies and small businesses have lots of great opportunities.

Leigh’s book is, as the title indicates, is a handbook. It is concise and hits the mark – very easy to read and absorb – as you might expect from a business coach – as she discusses ‘How to do good business on a finite planet’.

Every Product Is Actually An Embodied Service

Leigh says marketers have known for years that people buy products for the value they provide, not the materials they contain, which, she points out, takes ‘green profit’ to a new level. There are no products – only services.

The Core Principles Of This Approach

1. Everything is a service: For example,

“A major air-conditioning manufacturer has started deelivering ‘coolth’ (coolness and comfort) as a service instead of air-conditioning equipment products. It gets paid for delivering a particular temperature range. What equipment gets installed is up to the air-conditioning company, and if it comes up with a better, more energy efficient design, it becomes more profitable.

This business is no longer limited to selling and installing air conditioning – it can deliver other smart, low-tech solutions like air circulation fans or window shades if they are a better solution.”

2. There are NO wastes: the starting point here is the assumption that every ‘waste’ is actually a product that can be ‘upcycled’. Ask yourself:

  • What do we see as a waste?
  • What do our customers see as a waste?
  • What do our suppliers see as a waste?
  • How can we turn these wastes into profitable products?

An example of this different perspective:

“An Australian business is implementing a bio-digester technology that enables them to turn a wide range of organic wastes into fertiliser. Along the way, it generates power and clean water as by-products of its process, which can also be sold to new customers.


3. Design For Total Safety:
Every product will need to be

  • safe to manufacture
  • safe to use
  • safe to dispose of

For example:

“A major US sports shoe manufacturer ran a program to reduce its use of petro-chemical-based solvents. It replaced them with nature’s greatest solvent – water. The project resulted in millions of dollars in savings on raw material purchases, as well as reduced environmental impact and creating safer working conditions for employees.”

4. Design For Re-Manufacture:
In the past most makers of products haven’t been held accountable for their impact on the environment, either in the factory, or at the end of their useful life – it’s been a one-way, no-limits system.

The new approach is to design products to be easily pulled apart, with all components being designed to be re-used, or re-manufactured into valuable materials. For example:

“A major manufacturer of cartridges for computer printers has established re-manufacturing plants in a number of countries. Besides directly reducing materials costs, it has the added benefit of improving existing manufacturing systems after studying faults in the dissembled components.

The company found that their re-manufactured products are often of a higher quality than when first engineered.”


5. Use Or Copy Natural Processes:
Ask if there is somewhere in the natural world where your business’ problem has been solved. Where in your business are there high-energy, whiz-bang technological processes? Where in the natural world does something similar happen? For example:

“The smart natural design that ensures dirt and water roll off a lotus flower has been used to design a fabric finish that achieves the same water and stain repellency as conventional fabric finishers while using eight times less harmful fluorinated chemicals.”

6. Use Much, Use Less: What un-inspected business processes could be wasting time, money and natural resources? For example:

“A small Australian accounting firm started to look at its paper usage from the point of view of business process. It started by reviewing its filing processes, and identified unnecessary copying and filing. Then it implemented document imaging technology. The business not only reduced its paper usage by 50% (and hence their printing consumables), it substantially reduced the admin. time needed for filing as well.”

7. Think Small, Local And Smart: What opportunities are so close to home that you just haven’t seen them? For example:

“An Australian regional manufacturing company reduced its cooling costs by piping hot water from their production process through a second-hand car radiator installed on the factory roof. This smart odea came off the factory floor, not from an executive policy.”

A Bit About Leigh

Leigh is a business coach and supply-chain consultant with 30 years experience – her website is www.balance3.com.au.

Leigh’s real-world experience is backed by her studies in business systems, supply chain management, e-commerce, psychology, coaching and a passion for sustainable/regenerative businesses.

You can purchase
Leigh’s Deep Green Profit Handbook – in paperback form – here for $29.95 (GST incl)
or here to download it in pdf format, price $19.95 (GST incl).

An excellent read

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