Ray Anderson and Yvon Chouinard. Who will be our next Hero?

 

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What if there were more brave and visionary titans of transformation as inspired as Ray Anderson, Founder of Interface Carpet, who unfortunately passed in 2011, and Yvon Chouinard, Founder of Patagonia?

 

If even 5% of CEO’s of the Fortune 500 top companies followed in their footsteps, it may just cause a tidal wave of good will for our environment and society that has us reach the tipping point that so desperately needs to happen to sustain life on earth. The window is closing fast. Who will be our next Hero?

 

Both of these men felt a moral imperative to make their respective businesses work in ways that were most compatible with our natural environment, society and their employees. Both men were inspired to meet all the challenges of a whole and complete transformation of their companies from the inside out. Both men totally re-scaled and re-invented their companies, including the sourcing and production of their products, their manufacturing, their supply chain, the types of products they offered, their corporate culture, the delivery of their goods to the consumer and the communications strategy behind their consumer facing ad campaigns. Now that’s TRUE branding from the inside out. Both of these men have testified that while the choice to change everything took some risk, experimentation and investment in the short term, that it paid off in spades financially for their companies over the long term.

 

While Ray Anderson is no longer physically with us, he left behind a legacy and a company known as mavericks of sustainable business. In his 2009 book, “Confessions of a Radical Industrialist: Profits, People, Purpose–Doing Business by Respecting the Earth“, he says since 1994 Interface has:

 

• Cut greenhouse gas emissions by 82 percent
• Cut fossil fuel consumption by 60 percent
• Cut waste by 66 percent
• Cut water use by 75 percent
• Invented and patented new machines, materials, and manufacturing processes
• Increased sales by 66 percent, doubled earnings, and raised profit margins

 

Yvon Chouinard fortunately is still at the top of his game and keeps on pushing the envelope in the business world using Patagonia as the vehicle for positive change. His branding takes an anti-consumerism and anti-fashion approach, and embodies his philosophy. It’s not about buying more, it’s  about buying smarter. So that’s what he tells consumers in the ad featured above: “Don’t buy this jacket.”  If you really need to buy outdoor wear then gosh darn it, Patagonia will make sure it multitasks and is made to last. And if it breaks, we’ll fix it. And btw. we’ll recycle your used Patagonia jackets. (The fleece in it was made of recycled plastic bottles to start with.)

 

Patagonia has seen 25% growth annually throughout the recession, and one of Yvon’s struggles has been to keep scaling back and staying small enough to be able to control the output and environmental impact of his business. But as he imparted in a recent interview at a greenbiz.com forum, he can take this kind of risk. It’s his company. He doesn’t have to answer to stakeholders who are pushing for growth at the expense of our planet’s natural resources and the well being of life on earth. Yvon only has to answer to his own conscience.

 

If you are a visionary entrepreneur and/or CEO and you have a moment between meetings and tweets to check out these men and what inspired them, including reading Paul Hawken’s book, “The Ecology of Commerce: A Declaration of Sustainability“, which Ray Anderson sites as his inspiration (and which I also read and which inspired me to start my company) please check out these links below and spend a few minutes to experience firsthand what conviction combined with courage can create.

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