Joel Makower asks, “Why aren’t there more Ray Andersons?” Perhaps there are…

In his recent blog, Why aren’t there more Ray Andersons? , Joel Makower lamented the leadership void left by the passing of the extraordinary man, Ray Anderson (CEO of Interface) last year.

Joel writes, “…Anderson embodied the truly enlightened business leader who understood the value of sustainability practices — to increase sales, cut costs, foster innovation, delight employees, engage customers, and build an enviable reputation for his company, even one whose products were based on materials as unnatural as nylon and vinyl. He saw the potential to change the voice of business in the sustainability conversation. He was not an incrementalist.”

He asks: “Who today is the enlightened CEO picking up where Anderson left off?”

But I would like to reframe the question:  “How does each one of us measure up?”   “What stops us from being our own Ray Anderson in our part of the world?”

I wonder if it is an old paradigm that asks “Where are the heroes who will lead us bravely and resolutely in the transition to sustainability?”  In the evolving story from a reductionist, industrial paradigm to one based on whole systems and whole self; a new lens may be required.

Distributed leadership is a child of systems.  Each of us is a part of something much bigger. We are a piece of the community of humankind and of all life on the planet.  Therefore, it stands that each one of us has a role to play in this transition.  If we direct our intent and attention on to our inspirational future for sustainability (individually, in community, as employees etc); we may find that we are the ones we have been looking for.

Ray Anderson’s boldness was part of his authentic personal journey.   A journey rooted in compassion, and a clear insight to the radical interdependence of everything.   Ray’s lesson to us just might be that it is possible for each of us to remake the world with a sustainability lens.  It is possible for each one of us to dream the big dream and set ourselves upon it.   We just need to embrace our role and responsibility in this earth system.


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About Kathryn Cooper

Kathryn Cooper is a committed sustainability practitioner and educator moving companies toward “green” profitability and sustainable competitive advantage by unlocking human creativity and technical innovation. Over the last two years she has had the privilege to work with companies like Dupont, Zerofootprint, WWF Canada, and Partners in Project Green on sustainability issues, best practices and renewable energy. Kathryn is a graduate of York University with a Master of Education specializing on Sustainability and the Environment. She holds an MBA from Wilfrid Laurier University, and a Bachelor of Science from the University of Guelph.
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