Honorary Degree Citation
Ray C. Anderson. Visionary corporate leader, steward of our environment. You earned an industrial engineering degree from Georgia Tech in 1956 and 17 years later founded Interface, now the world’s largest producer of commercial floor coverings. But the turning point in your life came in 1994, when, after “21 years of unwittingly plundering the Earth” (your words), you read Paul Hawken’s The Ecology of Commerce. Recognizing that your products had a major impact on the environment, both as a drain on raw materials and a burden on landfills, you made, as the title of your own book suggests, a “Mid-Course Correction.” As chairman of Interface you pioneered innovative practices: selling carpet in tile squares, so only the worn potions had to be replaced; leasing rather than selling carpet, so old product would be returned for recycling; and modifying production so recycled carpet could replace raw materials. Your leadership not only reformed your company and your industry, it serves as a model for the corporate world. By demonstrating that a profitable company can also be an environmentally sustainable company, you have created a vision for business in the new century. You served as co-chair of the President’s Council on Sustainable Development, and you have been duly honored with a host of regional and national business, environmental, and leadership awards. As a college that includes environmental sustainability as one of our core values, Colby is proud to salute you today.
By the authority of the Board of Trustees of Colby College, I confer upon you, Ray C. Anderson, the degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa. The hood with which you have been invested and this diploma which I place in your hand are visible symbols of your membership in this society of scholars, to all the rights and privileges of which I declare you entitled.
Conferred May 28, 2006
Ray Anderson is the founder of Interface, Inc., one of the world’s largest interior furnishings companies. Interface is a leader in the green business movement. Anderson says he has embarked on a mission to make Interface “the first company that, by its deeds, shows the entire industrial world what sustainability is in all its dimensions: people, process, product, place, and profits.” Since making this commitment to sustainability, the company has reduced its environmental footprint significantly by redesigning processes and products, pioneering new technologies, and reducing or eliminating waste and harmful emissions while increasing the use of renewable materials and sources of energy. A graduate of the Georgia Institute of Technology with a degree in industrial engineering, Anderson lives in Atlanta.