Annually since 2013, the Ray C. Anderson Foundation has celebrated his life by hosting Georgia’s families and sustainability groups at Serenbe for a festival – RayDay. Since the beginning, Emory’s Office of Sustainability Initiatives has joined the celebration and hosted a table to help share with festival attendees the sustainability work done at Emory University and Emory Healthcare.
This year, to celebrate Ray’s legacy and to memorialize his quest to prove that sustainability was the right and smart thing to do for business, the Ray C. Anderson Foundation has launched a virtual celebRAYtion! The celebRAYtion is a 15-week, interactive Facebook event that looks back at all of the past RayDay festivals from 2013-2019, with an added focus on challenging sustainability supporters to match the Foundation’s $5,000 grants to the 13 initiatives they selected. Emory’s Office of Sustainability Initiatives is honored to be 1 of the 13.
Follow the celebRAYtion on the Ray C. Anderson Foundation’s Facebook page from September 26 to October 1 for highlights about OSI’s work and learn about and support the 13 featured organizations here: https://qtego.net/qlink/celebraytion. The celebRAYtion will run until October 18.
Eighty six years ago, Ray C. Anderson was born in West Point, Georgia. Ray learned the carpet trade through 14-plus years at various positions at Deering-Milliken and Callaway Mills, and in 1973, set about founding a company to produce the first free-lay carpet tiles in America, Interface. In 1994, at the height of his success with Interface, he was challenged with a question that would define the rest of his life: “What is your company doing for the environment?”. In an effort to discover the answer to that question, he read a book by Paul Hawken. The Ecology of Commerce made him aware for the first time that Interface was doing much more to harm the environment than to protect it. This “spear in the chest” epiphany led to what Ray later called his Mid-Course Correction—the beginning of his quest to eliminate any negative impact the company may have on the environment by 2020. Today, Interface is ranked as one of the top 5 corporate sustainability leaders in the world because of Ray’s vision and leadership. Sadly, Ray passed away in 2011, but he and his legacy are not forgotten.
Ciannat Howett, Emory’s Associate Vice President, Sustainability, Resilience and Economic Inclusion reflects on Ray’s legacy: “Ray Anderson spoke often about concern for tomorrow’s child, a concept of intergenerational ethics that could transform policy-making by governments, corporations, and non-profits if fully embraced. He urged us to undertake the long hard journey up Mount Sustainability and always challenged us to reach higher. For many of us, Ray provided that “spear to the chest” that he described during his mid-course correction from a take/make/waste industrialist to a leading environmental champion, and, as a successful industrialist with a mission to have zero negative impact on the earth, he dispelled the false choice between the environment and economy. He made the business case for sustainability through his success, and his eloquent teaching about his path inspired thousands of people all over the world. Emory gave Ray an honorary degree in 2007 to recognize his many contributions to our institution and society, and I am honored to have had him as a mentor.”