Spearheading Smart Business

It was a dark and stormy Monday, but I dragged myself out that evening to an advance screening of a film. Sure glad I went. The film was called So Right, So Smart: Making the Case for Sustainable Business. The star of the show was the late Ray Anderson, Chairman and Founder of Interface, a modular carpet company. Ray was an innovator, even before he had an epiphany around sustainability. He made carpet “tiles” – that is, the carpet they made and laid in commercial buildings was placed just like tiles would be, so if one section wore out or was stained beyond repair, it could be easily replaced. That is already a pretty sustainable approach, even if done unwittingly.

At the age of 60, after 22 years in the business, a series of events nudged Ray into creating a sustainability vision for the company. He calls it a spear in the chest moment ­– a big part of which involved reading Paul Hawken‘s book The Ecology of Commerce. And you will not believe what Ray accomplished in the next phase of his career. He tells the story beautifully in this new film. He is also featured in The Corporation and you can listen to many of his interviews and speeches on the Interface web site.

There was a panel discussion after the film including Jim Hartzfeld from Interface, Amanda Pitre-Hayes, City of Van Sustainability, David Van Seters, President of Sustainability Ventures and founder of SPUD, an organic produce delivery company, and Peter Robinson, CEO David Suzuki Foundation. The question posed to the panel was: How do we build on the legacy of Ray Anderson? There was good discussion and some concrete actions. One from Van Seters caught my attention – join a sustainable business networking group, in Vancouver there’s LOCO or Board of Change.

Here’s what really struck me though, I knew only two people in the room. This sustainability event drew a different crowd than I was used to, including business people, developers, engineers, architects. Looks like Anderson has really struck a chord with his peers in the business world.

I highly recommend this film. If you are a business person, you will find it especially enlightening. It will show you how to make your business more profitable and more sustainable – they are not mutually exclusive. It is well worth the hour. Promise. The film producers have also developed a companion sustainability toolkit for business managers. Find out more at So Right So Smart. You can watch a movie trailer there too.

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