Nema Etheridge for GlobalAtlanta
Not only is having an environmental policy good for a company’s bottomline, it is becoming increasingly required to do business in Europe, said Ray Anderson, a Georgia businessman, who is a leading spokesperson for corporate environmental responsibility.

“It is very difficult to set up a business in Europe without demonstrating some sort of environmental consciousness,” said Mr. Anderson, who in 1973 founded Atlanta-based carpet tile manufacturer Interface Inc.

With some 5,000 employees and manufacturing facilities in Australia, England, Ireland, the Netherlands, Thailand and the United States, Interface has become the world’s leading supplier of commercial carpet, according to its Web site. The company reported $881.6 million in revenue in 2005.

Mr. Anderson spoke about Interface and its environmentally conscious business model, which he implemented 12 years ago, as keynote speaker at an Oct. 10 Kiwanis Club of Atlanta luncheon.

Mr. Anderson, who stepped down from his position as CEO in 2001, gives about 100 lectures per year on the importance of corporate leadership in protecting the environment. At the luncheon, he said Interface’s environmentally responsible business model has been well-received by consumers.

“The entire initiative has been amazingly good for business. Our costs are down, not up, and the same people who were demanding us to change in the past are the ones who are buying our products now,” he said.

The initiative has also helped to spur product innovation and “galvanize” Interface’s employee base, he added.

In an interview with GlobalAtlanta after the meeting, Mr. Anderson said that in addition to European businesses, Japanese companies are already leading environmentally responsible initiatives.

“Japan’s going to eat our lunch,” in the environmentally innovative market, he said, citing Toyota Motor Corp.’s production of hybrid cars, which use electricity to reduce petroleum consumption and pollution, as an example.

Mr. Anderson said that he decided to change Interface’s business model because consumers and critics were demanding the petroleum-intensive company to be more environmentally responsible.

“In my whole life I had never given a thought about what I or my company were doing to the earth,” he said about his feelings toward the environment before changing company policy in 1994.

Now Interface is committed to eliminating company waste, to reducing greenhouse emissions, to using renewable energy sources, to recycling and to ending the use of toxic substances in its products, he said.

In addition to lecturing internationally, Mr. Anderson is also featured in the 2003 Canadian documentary, “The Corporation,” which offers a critical account of big businesses and their effect on society.

He will discuss his role in the film during a Monday, Oct. 16, screening at Emory University. The film begins at 7 p.m. in Harland Cinema at Emory’s Dobbs University Center, 605 Asbury Circle.

The Kiwanis Club of Atlanta welcomes weekly guest speakers for its Tuesday luncheons. Kiwanis clubs promote community service to strengthen goodwill.

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To learn more about Interface, visit or

To find out more about Emory’s screening of “The Corporation,” call (404) 727-1208.