Why I

Why I ... Left the Law for More Green

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John Lanier directs the Ray C. Anderson Foundation devoted to “green” enterprise.
John Lanier directs the Ray C. Anderson Foundation devoted to “green” enterprise.

That doesn’t make any sense, does it?

Leave my law firm for a nonprofit opportunity and make more green? Well, I couldn’t resist the pun. The Ray C. Anderson Foundation, which I now direct full-time, is devoted to a sustainable future through “green” enterprise.

One of our challenges is to break down the barriers in people’s minds between “green” and “green.” A cleaner environment doesn’t mean less profit—it actually means more. And an environmentally sustainable business doesn’t just mean a regular cash flow. It means a better future for “Tomorrow’s Child,” as my late grandfather, Interface Inc. founder Ray C. Anderson, believed deeply and was fond of saying.

The Foundation advances Ray’s vision. We’ve seen companies prosper by pioneering the use of alternative energy in manufacturing and the sourcing of renewable and biobased raw materials, along with other techniques.

The result: less waste, lower expense, higher profit. For example, Interface Inc. has reduced energy use by 39 percent (per unit of production) and reduced waste sent to landfills by 91 percent (per unit of production) since 1996. These advances are real. They’re substantial and they bring significant improvements to the overall operation of the company while reducing harm to the environment.

Our challenge is to bring more people on board with sustainability. To do that, we need to continue developing ideas through research. That requires an investment:

•     With a foundation grant of $250,000 per year for three years, Georgia Tech’s Scheller College of Business launched the Center on Business Strategies for Sustainability—a major step in developing sustainable solutions in business and industry.

•     We’re also helping Dr. Eric Mintz at Clark Atlanta University look into the sustainability of nanomaterial used as fiber.

•     Georgia State University is training 40 faculty members of varying disciplines in sustainability education.

Similar projects are being funded on many other campuses. One aim is to make sustainability a manufacturing byword and a household term.

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