Moments of Truth Along the Sustainability Path
Do you remember the dialogue around sustainable business practices in the 1980s?
OK, that's a trick question – sustainable business wasn’t much of a public business discussion in the 1980s; it certainly wasn’t mainstream the way it is today. But that didn’t stop Ray Anderson.
As told by Daniel Hendrix this morning at the U.S. Chamber BCLC’s National Conference, in the mid-1980s, Anderson, the founder of carpet manufacturer Interface Inc., “dropped a bomb that ultimately became the Interface vision.”
Anderson wanted to grow the company as a "steward of Mother Earth."
Hendrix, who was Interface’s CFO at the time, was not only skeptical, but a little panicked, too. After the shareholder meeting when Anderson unveiled his grand vision and laid out his case for sustainability, an analyst called Hendrix to say that investors were starting to dump Interface’s stock because “people thought Ray had lost his mind.”
But the late Ray Anderson stayed committed to his vision, said Hendrix in his keynote speech.
Competitors watched as Interface became a market leader and an environmental activist. Hendrix, who has served as Interface's CEO since 2001, credits Anderson’s sustainability vision as the factor that allowed the company to outperform others, even during market downturns.
Today, Interface is in good company. The carpet industry is one of the greenest. “You can change an industry,” Hendrix said.
Hendrix focused his speech today on the “moments of truth” that have defined Interface’s journey over the last two decades. This statement I found to be one of the inspiring: “We know now we don’t need a roadmap to move forward. We can innovate our way there.”
Here, the Moments of Truth for businesses that are embarking on their own journey of innovation and change:
1. Establish a vision and remain true to it. Decide: “is this who we’re going to be?” and become it.
2. Manage towards your sustainability or innovation. Not around it.
3. Know you will fail. Be ok with that. Learn from it.