Keynote Address: “From Moral Obligation to Moral Opportunity”

by John Anderson Lanier, Executive Director of the Ray C. Anderson Foundation

Dinner will begin at 6:00pm, with the keynote address beginning at 7:00pm

In 1994, Ray C. Anderson, the founder of Interface Inc., read Paul Hawken’s The Ecology of Commerce. Paul’s words convinced Ray that business and industry were responsible for the environmental degradation of our planet, but also were the only sector sufficiently large, organized and capitalized to lead society toward sustainability. From that day until Ray’s passing in 2011, he was committed to making his large, publicly traded carpet tile company as environmentally sustainable as possible.

Ray’s environmental ethos began as a moral obligation, but it quickly became much more. As Ray and the people of Interface began their climb up “Mount Sustainability,” they came to realize that their new corporate purpose was tremendously good for business: costs fell as they reduced waste and increased efficiency; environmentally friendly innovations came pouring in; and employee culture and engagement thrived. Sustainability was a business opportunity as well as an obligation.

Environmental stewardship is the same, in particular for people of faith. We are quick to see the moral obligation of preserving God’s creation for generations to come, however we often fail to see the moral opportunity that comes along with an authentic environmental ethos.

Are we focused on doing more good, not just less bad? Do we believe that solving environmental challenges gives us the chance to create more socially just communities? At a fundamental level, are we motivated by fear of what may be lost, or hope for what may be gained? John Lanier will explore these questions and discuss how his work with the Ray C. Anderson Foundation, named in memory of his grandfather, is rooted in his own personal environmental ethos.