A special first-look event was held recently in Atlanta for “Beyond Zero”, a documentary in development on the life of Ray Anderson. The founder and chairman of global modular carpeting manufacturer Interface is widely heralded as one of the pioneers and primary influencers in the pursuit of conscious capitalism as it relates to sustainability.
In 1994, “The Ecology of Commerce” by Paul Hawken, Ray said, “The only way the Earth can change is if business, the most pervasive and influential force on the planet, is willing to lead.”
Proud Green Home spoke to the producer of the documentary, Nathan Havey, founder and CEO of Thrive Consulting Group, about his goals for the project and how Anderson might view the world of sustainability today. We also spoke to Bill Hayward
Proud Green Home: Let’s start by understanding your relationship to the topic of corporate sustainability. Why is it so important to you?
Nathan Havey: I am, I guess, a student of conscious capitalism and businesses that are leveraging the for-profit business model to solve real challenges. Some of those challenges are social ones, and obviously one of the biggest challenges that this generation has to solve is climate change. Business is a key linchpin in doing that. And so I'm hunting around for stories all over the world about companies that are really confronting that challenge, and the best story I have found today is the story of Interface.
PGH: That leads us directly to Ray Anderson, the founder of that company. What inspires you about him and his group?
NH: I think that the reason that the story matters is that it was in 1994, when Interface started its environmental mission. It was already a global public company. And so if Interface in 1994 can achieve what it has now achieved, so can every other global public company out there. Some are doing just that, of course. There are amazing examples like Patagonia, even Ben and Jerry's, from a social standpoint that are using business for good. Some companies were even born with that mindset at the forefront, such as Whole Foods Market. But for Interface to be a totally unconscious, plundering, global carpet company in 1994 to begin to make the changes that they've made, that's why Ray Anderson and the Interface story is particularly inspiring to me.
PGH: Tell us about the project. Where it is and where is it going?
NH: We expect the documentary to premiere in festivals in late summer of 2020. We are doing what should be our final film shoots in Atlanta next week. There's one or two more shoots that will happen at another location, but we should be done with photography by the end of the year. And then we get into post-production and editing. We'll have some friends and family screenings in March and April, and then we'll submit to the documentary festivals.
PGH: How can people who read this story become involved?
NH: If people are interested in the movie, they can sign up for the email list at HaveyPro.com. But more importantly, I think that once the film comes out, they should push to get it screened at work. Screening the film in an office environment will raise certain questions: What are we doing? Are we being bold enough? With Ray Anderson, when he had what he called his “spear in the chest moment,” in the middle of August 1994, as he said that it gave him personally a new reason for being. And companies need a real reason for being beyond just the profit motive. And so I think that this film and other things in the conscious-capitalism world are very good at calling leadership teams to task: Why are we here? What is it that we're trying to achieve?
Interface, for example, is very, very close to actually achieving a mission of being able to have a truly sustainable company. As of January 2019, they are 96 percent down from their baseline with greenhouse gas emissions. Waste to landfills has been reduced by 91 percent. All of their global operations are running on 100 percent renewable power, and that was in January of this year. And they've made more progress since those numbers. So I think that again, when a company compares itself to the Interface example, they start to really have to ask some hard questions.
PGH: Would Ray Anderson be encouraged by what he's seeing the world today?
NH: He'd be horrified. I think he'd be encouraged with how far Interface has taken what came to be known as Mission Zero, and I'm sure he would be pushing them to go further. But to the extent to which we have failed to turn the tide on climate change, he would be horrified.
PGH: I want to talk next to Bill Hayward, who runs family-owned Hayward Lumber, a 100-year-old concern based in California. Hayward began to shake up not only his company but the entire lumber industry after he was exposed to Ray Anderson’s message and is now an investor in the documentary. Bill, tell us about your first encounter with Conscious Capitalism.
Bill Hayward: Back in 1998, I was running my company and had lunch with a woman who had a degree in environmental policy. She said, “Bill, what's your environmental policy?” And I stammered out that, you know, we buy wood. It comes from a forest. They replant the forest.” And her response to me was, “And you’re sticking with that answer?” I was like, “Oh my god.” I knew that line didn't really sit. Are we in our industry at that point by 1998? Back then, all of our children were questioning what our industry did, because of Forestry Wars was one the first grade environmental-awareness issues, right? So anyway, long story short, one of the people who worked for us when to a conference and came back with a copy of Ray Anderson’s book called “A Mid-Course Correction. ” And inside the book, it said, “To Bill from Ray: Good Luck.” And I read that book.
For me that was my watershed moment right there, what he did, and that book taught me that you could transform a company to make it sustainable and make it profitable, and his leadership was just exemplary. So that that started a journey for Hayward Lumber. From that day, we became the most environmentally friendly building material supplier in the country.
PGH: You even led a meeting with your team that was similar to Mr. Anderson’s, right?
BH: Right. I took my team up to the Pacific Northwest, where we spent two days in the forest looking at traditional forestry and then at sustainable, well-managed forests. On the second day, we stood above a clear-cut and looked down into it. Then I took us down into it. As we walked down into the clear-cut, you could see the dust and you could feel the impact of our industry of the planet. And that was the turning moment for our company. We all said agreed, look, sustainable business makes sense. And we're doing it.
PGH: Now, you’ve invested $100,000 Nathan’s documentary, “Beyond Zero” …
BH: Yes. I saw an eight-minute clip at a Conscious Capitalism event in Austin. Shortly after, I committed to make a contribution. This movie has to be made. It will change America. I'm making contribution because this story changed our industry and our company, and I want to contribute to it.
A trailer for the film is available here. Proud Green Home readers may go here for an extended preview of the film. Readers who may be interested in Interface products for their home can visit http://www.flor.com/.