It’s a sad day for environmentalists, entrepreneurs, and business leaders around the world.  Ray Anderson, 77, chairman and founder of Interface, passed away at his home in Atlanta on August 8, 2011.  Ray lost a 20-month battle with cancer, according to a statement by Interface.

Ray is famous for his “epiphany” in 1994, when he decided to take Interface in a new direction.  “[Ray] wanted Interface, a company so oil-intensive you could think of it as an extension of the petrochemical industry, to be the first enterprise in history to become truly sustainable—to shut down the smokestacks, close off its effluent pipes, to do no harm to the environment and take nothing not easily renewed by the earth.”

Anderson authored two books on his environmental journey with Interface: Mid-Course Correction (1998) and Confessions of a Radical Industrialist (2009), later released in paper as Business Lessons from a Radical Industrialist.  His vision was heavily influenced by Paul Hawken’s The Ecology of Commerce.

Ray had a gift for storytelling and leading, as shown by this TED 2009 speech.  He celebrated his company’s 38th birthday in April 2011 in a ten-minute video saying: “I think we must all hope that our lives will have counted for something good during our brief visit to this blue and green living planet called Earth, the third planet from a star named Sol.  What our lives count for is our legacy.

Ray’s legacy is enormous and profound and durable.  He leaves it with the company that he started several years ago, Interface, and with everyone else with the good fortune to have known him.  Interface set up a blog dedicated to remembering Ray Anderson and his vision.

Credit: Brooks Kraft/Corbis.