Given today’s political and social climate, corporate responsibility is becoming a larger factor in business-to-business and business-to-consumer purchasing decisions. Consumers and specifiers have a keen interest in the stories behind sustainability and social responsibility. In these pages, Floor Trends shares company initiatives from leaders in the flooring industry.
- Shaw Opens Commercial Create Centre
- Metroflor: A New Voice for China Manufacturing
- J+J Flooring Builds Momentum Towards 2020
- Armstrong’s Flooring Recycling Program Reaches Milestone
- Milliken Completes New Milestone for Transparency
- Interface Supports California Carpet Recycling Bill
Shaw Industries opened its $24 million commercial Create Centre in Cartersville, Ga., offering a stimulating storytelling environment that is a catalyst for growth and innovation across Shaw’s commercial business units.
The three-story, 67,000-square-foot building houses the commercial division’s marketing, design and innovation associates—including its Patcraft and Shaw Contract teams.
Designed by integrated architecture, design, planning and consulting firm Gensler, the Create Centre offers a stimulating storytelling environment that is a catalyst for growth and innovation across Shaw’s commercial business units. Supporting Shaw’s client-centric approach, the new workspace provides a collaborative environment that facilitates the sharing of ideas; that ignites fresh thinking; that fosters Shaw’s culture of innovation, diversity and inclusion; and that showcases Shaw Contract and Patcraft’s design and performance leadership.
“Innovation doesn’t just happen. It’s a process of consistently and intentionally reaching beyond what we’ve done before,” Shaw chairman and CEO Vance Bell noted. “The Create Centre is an exciting and stimulating new work environment that was designed to foster collaboration, cross-pollination of ideas across teams and departments, and greater engagement with our customers as we focus even more keenly on customer experience.”
The Create Centre is an important tool in supporting Shaw’s vision of growth for our commercial business—including global expansion and domestic market leadership. It is a physical symbol of the company’s commitment to think differently and to strategically invest in continued growth and innovation.
“The Create Centre will provide the ideal setting for our talented team members to create, dream, collaborate and solve challenges,” said Brenda Knowles, vice president of marketing, Shaw commercial division. “It’s a space where our customer obsession can come to life. Similar to the approach we take in developing our flooring products, this space is where form and function, beauty and performance come together.”
The Create Centre is expected to be USGBC LEED certified and features ample daylight and open collaborative spaces. The new building consists of a variety of public and private areas to support different work styles across the organization, with prominent design features such as the central staircase that encourages activity and the orange louver wall that runs along the facade of the building, allowing ample daylight into the building. With an abundance of features focused on staff wellbeing, the Create Centre’s design seeks to enable a culture of sustainability. Envisioned to inspire Shaw’s talented professionals, the center also serves as a tool in recruiting new talent as the company continues to grow.
Thousands of American companies manufacture products in China, and many do their best to hide that fact. Metroflor is taking a more transparent approach, thanks to a decades-long partnership with the Elegant Plastics Factory, located in Zhangjiagang, near Shanghai.
Jin Song, second-generation general manager of the family-owned Elegant Plastics Co., and Simon Xia, who serves as Metroflor Shanghai office general manager—sustainability coordinator, gives an inside view of the advances being made in sustainability and transparency in China. As members of the emerging manufacturing elite in China, they describe how these principles are unfolding in one of the world’s most important industrial environments.
A number of environmental improvements have taken place at the Elegant Plastics factory in recent years. Vinyl flooring is produced with isolated hot press technology, fusing flooring layers by heat and pressure in a cylinder at 300 degrees, then cooling down to 100 degrees in one production cycle. The factory started to invest in new hot press technology with dual cylinders, allowing separation of the heating and cooling steps to save energy.
“Previously, our factory used a coal burning boiler to generate steam internally, which was inefficient and polluting,” Xia said. “In 2010, we abandoned coal and began to buy steam from a local steel mill, allowing us to recycle energy that would otherwise have gone to waste.”
The company also saves and recycles water through a closed-loop system and built an outdoor pool to cool the water coming from the hot press process. “For factory production lighting, we use LED lightbulbs, which consume 25% less energy than incandescent bulbs. We also replaced part of the power supply with solar panels,” Song said.
There is a lot of concern about the safety of products coming from China, so it is a primary focus of Metroflor and Elegant Plastics. “Most of our raw material suppliers have been doing business with Elegant Plastics for many years, and they know our requirements and standards well,” Xia said. “Intensive product tests are conducted to ensure product safety. In the new product development stage, product ingredient information is submitted to our U.S. Product Authority Team for review. Products are tested thoroughly before launch: heavy metal content, REACH list (Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals), and phthalates and VOC emissions tests to ensure our products meet both U.S. and European requirements.”
Many Americans have the perception that factory workers in China have a difficult life, but Song said treatment of the company’s workers is a primary concern. “Because it can get up to 100 degrees in the summer, we have air conditioning on the plant floor for our employees’ comfort,” she said. “Local labor laws protect them from overwork. Most of the employees stay in company-provided apartments, enabling families to stay together, as many workers relocate to find employment.”
J+J Flooring Group marked continued progress towards its environmental performance goals according to the company’s fifth annual corporate sustainability report. Building Momentum covers the company’s environmental and social responsibility investments and progress during the 2016 fiscal year.
Highlights from the report include a 23% reduction in the company’s energy consumption since 2010—an achievement that exceeds J+J’s 20% reduction goal four years ahead of the company’s 2020 deadline. The milestone follows the company’s 2014 achievement of Zero Waste to Landfill Certification, six years ahead of its 2020 goal.
“When J+J merged with Engineered Floors in early 2016, we did so knowing our shared values and aligned strengths would create new opportunities for growth, innovation and service to our associates, customers and communities,” said David Jolly, president of J+J Flooring Group. “As a result, the past year has been one of growth and change for our company, and as our progress in 2016 shows, we now stand at the cusp of what is proving to be the most exciting era in our history.”
The milestones are part of J+J’s 20/20 Vision, an operational guidepost for managing J+J’s environmental performance through the year 2020, using the company’s 2010 performance as a baseline. J+J’s Vision 20/20 goals include: Eliminating use of landfills (achieved in 2015), reducing water usage by 66%, reducing energy intensity by 20% (achieved in 2016), increasing the use of renewable energy to at least 10% of total consumption, reducing Greenhouse Gas emissions by 20%, and increasing recycled, bio-based or renewable content in products to 33%.
Further progress towards J+J’s Vision 20/20 includes: off-setting more than 50% of direct energy consumption with Green E REC energy credits through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Green Power Partnership, qualifying J+J as an EPA Energy Leadership Partner; 34% water consumption reduction since 2010, including a 10.9% reduction in 2016; and an 18% reduction in GHG emissions since 2010, including a 3.4% reduction in 2016.
The company also highlights social responsibility with attributes such as an inclusive workplace culture, career development, employee health and wellbeing, and charitable giving.
“As we celebrate continued progress towards our 20/20 Vision, we are also beginning to think about what our company—and our world—will look like in 2040, 2060 and beyond, knowing our collective dedication to sustainability today stands to make a positive difference tomorrow,” said J+J Flooring Group Director of Environmental Innovation Russ DeLozier.
The On&On Floor Recycling Program, an ongoing recycling effort from Armstrong Flooring, offers commercial building owners and contractors an alternative to traditional disposal and a flexible, end-of-life recycling solution for vinyl flooring products.
The program has kept 25,000 tons of materials out of landfills, which has eliminated the generation of over 16,000 tons of greenhouse gases. In 2017, Armstrong Flooring reached a milestone by recycling more than 50 million pounds of post-consumer flooring materials.
The company says the success of its On&On Recycling Program is an affirmation that traditional linear thinking, where people use a product and throw it away, is evolving to a circular approach where waste is valued as a resource.
“It’s about more than diverting materials from a landfill; it is about using resources wisely from product design to the end of a product’s life cycle,” said Amy Costello, sustainability manager, Armstrong Flooring.
What began as a recycling program for Vinyl Composition Tile (VCT) has expanded into a comprehensive program that now includes Luxury Vinyl tile (LVT) and BioBased tile (BBT) that is recycled back into new tile. BBT’s innovative bio flooring provides sustainability, beauty and productivity to commercial spaces that require these elements for a seamless interplay of design quality and performance. As a bio-based alternative to PVC flooring, BBT bio flooring’s main ingredient is 85% North American limestone locally quarried, further reducing the product’s carbon footprint.
As LVT experiences continued growth in North America, this innovative product’s lifecycle becomes increasingly important, and Armstrong has committed to creating and perpetuating a simple, rewarding recycling option.
Milliken has completed a new LEED v4 credit pathway that addresses material traceability and transparency in the supply chain: Building Product Disclosure and Optimization - Material Ingredients (Option 3). The next tier of LEED v4 MR credit material transparency, this stringent credit option dives into the chemical makeup of supplier materials for an elevated understanding of their resulting human and environmental health impacts.
Milliken is the first flooring manufacturer that can contribute to this credit option, and it applies specifically to Milliken’s Live Oak flooring operations in LaGrange, Ga. For a new build or renovation project team to qualify for this LEED v4 point, at least 25 percent of the total material purchased for the project must qualify as “optimized” per Option 2 or 3 of the credit. Floor covering can easily account for this requirement in a renovation. The new credit is designed to reward manufacturers who optimize supplier material chemistry, which begins with a deep understanding of what is inside their current products.
Interface expressed its support for a California law that requires new state carpet purchases to include a specified amount of post-consumer recycled content. AB 1158, signed into law by California Gov. Jerry Brown Oct. 14, builds on the state’s current carpet recycling program through the implementation of clear-cut goals for recycling.
“We see this new law as a positive step forward in driving a truly circular economy in our industry,” said Interface CEO Jay Gould. “While we have been committed to recycling product with our own ReEntry product take back program for two decades, we felt it so important to push for this legislation that we joined a broad coalition of organizations to support and lobby for the bill.”
Interface has been committed to recycling carpet at end of life for 20 years, diverting more than 350 million pounds of materials from landfill in the U.S. alone, through its ReEntry product take back program. ReEntry recycles reclaimed fiber for use in new products and reuses backing materials in the creation of new backing.
While Interface has demonstrated its commitment to recycling through ReEntry, the company’s leadership recognizes that there must be a robust infrastructure in place to make a lasting impact.
Transparency is the first step to achieving environmental and health objectives for the built environment. However, many transparency tools merely enumerate the hazard level without determining exposure and risk.
The Environmental Protection and Encouragement Agency (EPEA) in partnership with Tarkett developed the Material Health Statement (MHS), a new disclosure declaration that strives to cut through the confusion, go deeper than the others, and still maintain a manufacturer’s privacy in regard to proprietary information now exists.
Prof. Dr. Michael Braungart founded the EPEA. He is known globally as co-founder of the Cradle to Cradle design framework, and conducts Cradle to Cradle assessments based on European precautionary principle, in which any amount of plausible exposure is deemed to be sufficient to rate a chemical as posing a risk due to identified, suspected, or unknown health hazards.
Tarkett has worked with EPEA since 2011, optimizing and developing products using the Cradle to Cradle Certified Product Standard and ensuring continuous improvement of products based upon five attributes: material health, material reutilization, renewable energy and carbon management, water stewardship, and social fairness. Following the Cradle to Cradle framework is one step Tarkett is undertaking to move forward on their journey to contribute to a circular economy that aims to keep products, components, and materials at their highest utility and value at all times, distinguishing between technical and biological cycles.