As a young girl in western Pennsylvania, Rochelle Routman nurtured a love of science and the environment, spending hours painting streams, forests and flowers.
“I was especially fascinated with fossil seashells that could be found on the mountaintop in Pennsylvania,” she said. “It just really opened my eyes up to the dynamic nature of the earth and how these fossils are so much older than humankind.”
Fast forward to the University of Georgia where, after much deliberation between pursuing a career in science or art, she settled on a major in geology.
“It was because of all of the fabulous trips that geologists can go on,” she joked. “Jeckyll Island, Amelia Island, and in senior year I won a scholarship to go to Montana.”
There, camping with a group of geology students, she wrote an essay about how she wanted to pursue a career in environmental protection.
“At the time, that was really an oddity because all the other geologists wanted to go work for an oil company or a mineral exploration company,” she explained. “I graduated with my degree and I was awarded senior of the year in geology. My reward—a rock hammer.”
Today, as chief sustainability officer at global LVT manufacturer HMTX Industries, Rochelle leads the Product Authority Team, which serves as an information clearinghouse that directs the manner in which sustainability unfolds throughout the global enterprise. The team is involved in all aspects of the product channel: supply chain sustainability, product and social transparency, customer service, testing and compliance, innovation, quality and performance.
“We are answering the need to invest in a restorative ecosystem, and we are doing our part to educate, motivate and encourage others to do the same,” Routman said. “The future starts with all of us, at this moment.”
After years of working in sustainability at major organizations—including Mohawk Industries, Lockheed Martin Aeronautics, Georgia Power and Southern Company and Georgia Environmental Protection Division—Routman said she was thrilled to join Metroflor, now part of HMTX Industries, in 2016. There, CEO Harlan Stone told Routman she could further her dream of transparency and sustainability.
“Harlan told me how the company works with two specific factories in China and they have known them for generations. I thought maybe here I can do some of the things I haven’t been able to do elsewhere. First of all, apply Declare and product ingredient transparency, and secondly, always in the back of my mind, I had this idea that I wanted to pursue JUST, which is the label for social equity.”
For three decades, HMTX has worked closely with its Chinese manufacturing partners to establish a system-wide commitment to innovation, achieving the most rigorous third-party certifications in product, process, sustainability and transparency which are driving the resilient flooring industry forward. Under Routman’s careful management, the company has earned Declare labels across Aspecta and Metroflor flooring products and was the first to translate and publish them in multiple languages. Health Product Declarations (HPDs) and Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) have also been issued for all Aspecta’s flooring products, with EPDs for Metroflor products to be available in second half of 2019 joining the full line of HPDs. The company’s two partner factories achieved the first-ever JUST social justice labels for Chinese companies, based on a wide range of metrics including safety, diversity, worker benefits and community engagement.
Zhangjiagang Elegant Home-Tech Co., Ltd., has done business with the Stone family for 27 years and employs 1,200 who work 10-hour shifts. Worker benefits include factory-subsidized housing, schooling, day- and after-school care, and leisure facilities. The Zhangjiagang Yihua Rundong New Material Co., Ltd. (known as Yihua) has done business with the Stone family for 30 years and employs 2,200.
“Social justice is the new frontier of transparency in the building products industry,” Routman said. “This is a very personal topic that addresses the organizational relationship to the individual, revealing much more about the values of the organization than the basic tenets of corporate social responsibility, such as volunteerism and green buildings. I’m honored to work for a company that is leading the world in acquiring JUST labels for the flooring industry and Asian manufacturing.”