Hall Of Fame: Lasting Influence
Three additions to Georgia Trend’s Most Influential Hall of Fame
Ray Anderson has been counting down to zero for 16 years, and he won’t be happy until his company hits rock bottom.
“We’ve made a lot of progress toward our goal of zero environmental impact,” says Anderson, chairman and founder of Interface, Inc., the world’s largest maker of modular flooring, with about $1 billion in annual sales.
“Can you picture what that means, to walk on the earth and leave no footprint? From the time that we started in 1994 we’re about 60 percent there, almost two-thirds of the way to the top of ‘Mount Sustainability.’”
It’s a famous story now. Anderson, asked by stakeholders to explain his company’s environmental position, sought inspiration in Paul Hawken’s The Ecology of Commerce.
“It was a revelation. I was the typical capitalist – you know, the Earth is mine for the taking,” Anderson says. “But that book changed my worldview. It set me on a different path.”
Though he is battling cancer, Anderson continues to spread the word like an evangelical missionary. Inter-face’s greenhouse gas emission tonnage is down 94 percent since 1994, water use and landfill waste are both down about 80 percent, and the company has recycled 100,000 tons of material inside its own walls.
The company has remade itself, gaining global kudos for putting sustainability at the forefront. Anderson, whose most recent book is Confessions of a Radical Industrialist, has become a sought-after source and speaker on the topic, and Interface has assembled an impressive roster of conservation-minded advisors, including Hawken (who apparently is dedicating his updated version of The Ecology of Commerce to Anderson). – Jerry Grillo
David Ratcliffe received one of the best bits of advice in his 39-year-career as he ascended to the post of chairman and CEO of Southern Company. It came from Allen Franklin, Ratcliffe’s predecessor, who offered some concise counsel as he handed over the keys to the kingdom.
“He told me, ‘It’s in pretty good shape. Don’t screw it up,’” Ratcliffe recalls. “It was good advice. I don’t think I screwed it up.”
Ratcliffe retired last month from the powerful $16-billion energy mega-company (parent to Georgia Power, Ala-bama Power, Gulf Power and Missis-sippi Power), which generates 42,000 megawatts of electricity for 4.4 million customers across the Southeast.
Since beginning his career in 1971 as a biologist for Georgia Power, Ratcliffe says the challenges of keeping the lights on have changed very little.
“It’s still about finding an appropriate balance between a reliable supply of electricity that we can afford,” he says. “We still want to keep the lights on, but we’d like to do it with a smaller environmental footprint.”
Emissions-free nuclear power will help toward that end, he says. Units 3 and 4 under construction at Georgia Power’s Plant Vogtle will be the first new-generation nuclear plants in the U.S. in decades.
“Our decision four years ago to begin new nuclear plants was a watershed event for this company,” he says. “We are on schedule and under budget.”
Ratcliffe says he plans to enjoy retirement (more golf, hunting and fishing) but will stay involved with some of the boards on which he has served, including CSX Transportation and the Georgia Research Alliance. – Jerry Grillo
Franklin Skinner can hardly recognize the telecommunications industry any more.
“It’s hard to believe now that the mobile phones we had back then were so heavy you had to wear a shoulder strap to carry them,” he says – via cell phone, a few days after shoulder reconstruction surgery.
But by the time he retired as chairman and CEO of the newly minted BellSouth Telecommunications in 1992 (a company formed through the consolidation of Southern Bell, South Central Bell and BellSouth Services into a single corporation), there were some clear signs of how the industry was diversifying and where it was heading.
“The Internet was new, and it was pretty clear that the cellular phone business was going to grow in a big way,” says Skinner, who began his career in what was simply called “the telephone business” with the Chesa-peake and Potomac Telephone Com-pany of Virginia.
Throughout his career, though, business was just a way of allowing him to do what he loved most.
“There’s more to being a good citizen than simply paying taxes and earning an honest living,” he says. “Each of us has a responsibility to contribute to the welfare of the community. I’ve been blessed in many ways to be able to do so.”
Barely scratching the surface: Skinner chaired United Way fund-raising campaigns in three different cities, including Atlanta; is past chairman of the Salvation Army’s national and statewide boards; is former chairman of the Metro Atlanta Chamber; and has served on the Morehouse College Board of Trustees for 15 years. – Jerry Grillo
Dr. Joseph Lowery
Civil Rights Leader
Journalist, Political Columnist
Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau
Founder/Owner 755 Restaurant Corp.
Former U.S. Senator
Former Assistant Secretary General (NATO)
Former U.S. Ambassador (Seychelles)
Former President Georgia State University
Herman J. Russell
Chairman/Founder H.J. Russell & Company
A.D. “Pete” Correll
Former Chairman/CEO Georgia-Pacific Corp.
Co-founder, The Home Depot
William S. Morris III
Chairman/CEO Morris Communications Co.
Retired Board Chairman & CEO Synovus Financial Corp.
Senior Strategic Advisor
McKenna Long & Aldridge LLP;
Former President Kennesaw State University
Former Board Chairman Cousins Properties Inc.
Athletic Director Emeritus University of Georgia
Longtime Georgia Commissioner of Agriculture
Longtime DeKalb County CEO and Commissioner
President Buckhead Coalition
Former Mayor, City of Atlanta
J. Mack Robinson
Businessman and Philanthropist
Founder, CNN, TNT and TBS
Environmentalist and Philanthropist
Nobel Peace Prize winner
Former First Lady
Mental Health Advocate
Dr. Louis Sullivan
Founding Dean, Morehouse School of Medicine
Former U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services
Former U.S. Senator
National Defense Authority
Former U.S. Attorney General
Former U.S. Circuit Court Judge
S. Truett Cathy
Former Mayor, City of Atlanta
Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations
John C. Portman
Architect, Developer and Entrepreneur
Thomas B. Murphy
Longtime Speaker, Georgia House of Representatives