AUBURN – Ray Anderson, Founder and Chairman of the Board of Interface Inc. and recognized as the global pacesetter for environmentally sustainable business practices, was honored as Auburn University’s 2007 laureate at the 14th annual International Quality of Life Awards at the United Nations in New York, Monday, Dec. 3.
Presenting the award, given annually by AU’s College of Human Sciences, was Paul Hawken, author of “The Ecology of Commerce,” a book that addresses the “gap between how the earth lives and how we conduct our commercial lives.” Anderson read Hawkin’s book in 1994 and experienced what he calls his “spear-in-the-chest epiphany” which led to a complete rethinking of his company’s approach to the environment.
Founded by Anderson in 1973, Interface is the world’s largest producer of commercial carpet tile with sales in more than 100 countries and manufacturing facilities on four continents. In 2006 GlobeScan listed Interface as number one in the world for corporate sustainability.
Thirteen years ago Anderson issued a challenge for Interface to become the world’s first restorative enterprise by 2020. Interface is now 45 percent of the way to its target of Mission Zero, the point at which the conglomerate will be a fully sustainable operation that takes nothing out of the earth that cannot be recycled or quickly regenerated and that does not harm the biosphere.
A native of West Point, Ga., Anderson graduated with highest honors from the Georgia Institute of Technology with a degree in Industrial Engineering. He served as co-chair of the President’s Council on Sustainable Development during the Clinton administration. He serves on the Emory University Board of Visitors and the advisory boards of the Harvard Medical School Center for Health and the Global Environment and the Ida Cason Callaway Foundation.
Among his honors and awards are the inaugural Millennium Award from Global Green presented by Mikhail Gorbachev; the George and Cynthia Mitchell International Prize for Sustainable Development; and Entrepreneur of the Year by both Forbes magazine and Ernst and Young.
“It is a privilege for the Auburn University College of Human Sciences to honor Ray Anderson as the 2007 International Quality of Life Award Laureate,” said June Henton, dean of the college. “Ray is the world’s premier industrialist in the area of sustainable commerce. Because of his vision, passion and leadership, Interface has set the standard for corporate social responsibility.”
AU’s College of Human Sciences launched the International Quality of Life Awards in 1994 as an annual occasion to honor people and partnerships who make significant contributions – in the spirit of the college’s own mission – to individual, family and community well-being and quality of life both locally and internationally.
Past honorees include Norman Ernest Borlaug, a Nobel Prize winner known as the father of the “Green Revolution”; Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu of Capetown, South Africa; Madeleine Albright, former U.S. Secretary of State; Don Logan, Chairman of the Board, Time Warner Cable Inc.; Lawrence Klein, Ph.D., Nobel Laureate in Economics; and Catherine Bertini, former head of the United Nations World Food Programme.
More than 300 people are expected to attend this year’s ceremony, which benefits the Fund for Global Understanding. The fund underwrites the awards and supports international academic programming at Auburn University.