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       Viability through Responsibility

                                                                                         Climate change issues are currently of major                                                                                          public interest, and not engaging in the debate                                                                                            creates the image of a company that is out-of-                                                                                              touch. Corporate responsibility in a global age is                                                                                          now identified with a concern for sustainability, as                                                                                      boardroom decisions increasingly have far-                                                                                                  reaching consequences. At the same time, a                                                                                                potential client’s or a competitor’s image of your                                                                                          company improves along with your ability to cut                                                                                          costs and drive revenue—as a result of, not in

                                                                                    spite of, green practices. And in turn your                                                                                                      corporation becomes a model for increasing                                                                                                market share as a sustainable business.  

     A case in point is the carpet tile manufacturer

Interface, Inc. Former CEO Ray Anderson, in

his book Mid-Course Correction, outlines the

corporate ethic of “Doing well by doing good.”

This is achieved in three ways: earning your

customers’ goodwill, achieving resource

efficiency, and setting an example that other

businesses can’t ignore. Anderson writes,

“We can do the most good by doing the most

well. By doing well, the more good we will do

through example.” [1]



      Anderson’s formula insists on how setting an example for sustainability builds on your company’s bona fides, while motivating competitors and clients to do the same. Beginning in 1994, Interface set a course for resource efficiency called Mission Zero®, whereby the company aims to have no negative impact on the planet by 2020. This has involved everything from sourcing recycled and biobased materials for the manufacturing of their carpets, to redesigning their supply chain. In just the first three years of the campaign, Interface improved its resource efficiency by 22.5%, while its share price tripled. [2]​ A summary of Interface's remarkable business approach is available in their report entitled The New Industrial Model

     As stories like Interface’s become more common, reducing our carbon footprints will become par for the course. Companies will then need to extend their sustainability practices into political action and impact investment, in order to maintain a consequential stake in climate change mitigation and resiliency. All in all, it is by way of taking responsibility that companies will maintain their viability, once we recognize that environmental and economic preservation go hand-in-hand. As U.S. Senator and preservationist Gaylord Nelson (1916-2005) once said, “The economy is a wholly owned subsidiary of the environment, not the other way around.” 

[1] Ray Anderson, Mid-Course Correction. Atlanta: Peregrinzilla Press, 1998 (p.74). See also John Elkington's concept of the Triple Bottom Line.

[2] Mid-Course Correction, p. 73

Photo courtesy of the Ray C. Anderson Foundation

           Ray C. Anderson of Interface 
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