From increases in automation, blurred geographical boundaries, and environmental movements, we are at the forefront of a rapid change in the way public spaces and commercial enterprises are built, operated and used. As part of the built environment, commercial flooring is undoubtedly on the verge of a new era.

For flooring, the push for environmental awareness and action is vibrating through our space and has made dramatic waves. Particularly, flooring products marketed as PVC-free have gained significant mindshare in the marketplace.

PVC-free flooring refers to a type of flooring without polyvinyl chloride, or vinyl, and has become one of the most commonly marketed product categories this year. It has also become one of the most trigger-happy words in our industry.

PVC-free is a term so widely accepted that it is rarely challenged. However, we should truly be careful of a word that tells us first what it is not. It has halted the conversation of what it actually is and has lowered our standards of disclosure.

Rather, we as manufacturers, distributors and marketers should be explaining what our product is to our consumers, not what it is not. For example, Teknoflor recently launched Naturescapes HPD in which we have labeled an organic polymer resilient sheet. It is primarily made from an organic polymer derived from castor oil, an inherently organic crop. It is also made without vinyl, but we decided to tell you what it is first, not what it is not.

This prioritization of information is especially important to specifiers and end-users throughout the product selection phase of a project. True disclosure and transparency of a product should be at the forefront of our marketing, helping our clients make sound choices effectively and responsibly. As more and more “PVC-free” products hit the marketplace, specifiers won’t be able to differentiate between products as easily through this generalized, do-without term – we are going to need to disclose the nature of our product to differentiate our products. 

Our clients have the right to know what they are purchasing and it’s important that we don’t sugar coat our products by putting sexy terms like PVC-free first. We should disclose what is in our products and tell their story.

It’s not just our industry that has these problems, it’s even in the food we eat. For example, antibiotic-free chicken can be found in just about any grocery store. But the free of antibiotics claim doesn’t mean the product is entirely devoid of all medications.

For commercial interiors, we are fortunate that organizations and disclosure tools such as the International Living Future Institute’s Living Product Challenge and Declare labels and Health Product Declarations exist. They help us tell the story and market our products with transparency. But we shouldn’t just rely on those documents to back us up—it should be in our literature, on our advertisements, and in our sales pitches.

Let’s start telling the truth about what our products are and not leading with what they are not.