08/08/2011 06:24 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Ray Anderson Dies: Green Business Leader Dead At 77

Ray Anderson, a green business leader, died on Monday from cancer.

Interface Company President and CEO Dan Hendrix announced on Monday that Ray Anderson died in his Atlanta home, surrounded by family members.

Anderson founded Interface in 1973, now the world's largest manufacturer of modular carpet. In 1994, after reading Paul Hawken’s The Ecology of Commerce, Anderson set out to accomplish something that was much less heard of at the time -- make his business sustainable.

As Grist puts it, his goal was "not we-buy-carbon-offsets sustainable or look-at-our-recycled-packaging sustainable, but real-deal sustainable." He founded "Mission Zero," focused on ultimately leaving no environmental footprint.

PRNewswire writes, "It is for his legendary environmental epiphany in 1994 for which he will best be remembered."

In a 2008 interview with TreeHugger, Ray Anderson said, "We're halfway to the top of that mountain, Mt. Sustainability. The point at the top signifies zero footprint that we aspire to." He went on to describe how his business cut emissions despite growing in size, then continued, "So it's setting a pretty tough standard, but other companies have got to do it, too. If we can do it, they can."

According to the Interface website, Ray Anderson delivered over 1,500 talks "sharing his passion for the Interface story – the business case for sustainability." He appeared in “The 11th Hour,” was a commentator on the Sundance Channel’s series “Big Ideas for a Small Planet,” and was one of TIME magazine’s "Heroes of the Environment" in 2007. At one time during President Clinton’s administration, he was co-chair of the President’s Council on Sustainable Development, and he was then co-chair of the Presidential Climate Action Plan in 2008.

Interface CEO Dan Hendrix said: "Not only did Interface and the world lose a great man today, but I lost a friend and mentor. Ray's iconic spirit and pioneering vision are not only his legacy, but our future."

Joel Makower wrote on GreenBiz.com, "Countless tributes will be made by his many friends and admirers in the coming days and weeks. He will be lionized for his vision, inspiration, humanity, and generosity, among many other traits that characterized him."

In the 1997 book Business Lessons from a Radical Industrialist, Ray Anderson wrote his ambitions:

If we’re successful, we’ll spend the rest of our days harvesting yester-year’s carpets and other petrochemically derived products, and recycling them into new materials; and converting sunlight into energy; with zero scrap going to the landfill and zero emissions into the ecosystem. And we’ll be doing well … very well … by doing good. That’s the vision.

Visit www.raycandersonblog.com for more.

WATCH Ray Anderson deliver his 2009 TED talk: