Patagonia’s friend Ray Anderson, the visionary founder and chairman of Interface, died last week at the age of 77. Ray was an intelligent, soft-spoken entrepreneur, engineer, and businessman who, on reading Paul Hawken's Ecology of Commerce in 1994 called it a “spear into my heart,” embraced environmentally conscious business practices, and became a tireless spokesman for better behavior on the part of business. We interviewed both Ray and Paul in our video “What Is Quality for Our Time?” (pictured) which you can find in our Footprint Chronicles and Video Gallery. Paul has graciously granted us permission to post his moving tribute to Ray.
We, who were so fortunate to know Ray Anderson, were in awe. He was many people: a father, executive, colleague, brother, speaker, writer, leader, pioneer. But I am not sure any of us quite figured him out. On the outside, Ray was deceptively traditional, very quiet sometimes, an everyman, all-American, down-home. He was so normal that he could say just about anything and get away with it because people didn’t quite believe what they heard. He could walk into an audience and leave listeners transfixed by a tenderness and introspection they never expected or met. Business audiences in particular had no defenses because they had no framework for Ray.
Was he really a businessman? Yes. Was he a conservative southern gentleman with that very refined Georgiadrawl. Yes. Was he successful? For sure.