From assessing the raw materials, reclaiming nearly a billion pounds of carpet, and reducing their carbon footprint, Shaw continues to be a sustainability leader. Kellie Ballew, the company’s new vice president of global sustainability, is spearheading efforts to help ensure wellness for people and the planet.

Ballew’s role is a crucial one, as Shaw balances commerce and stewardship in the midst of a global pandemic. “My personal responsibility is to have a keen eye and ear to the marketplace, to bring insights to our businesses across the enterprise, both residential and commercial. I have to be mindful of the socio-economic and political currents that are impacting the collective psyche.”

Indeed, Ballew believes that coronavirus has already changed how people think about healthy living, and that it will have a lasting effect on how we design interiors and the products we use every day. “COVID-19 has really forced us to think intentionally about our own health and our own wellness. It has reshaped our consciousness on sustainability in a positive way.”

Now, spaces not only have to accommodate a range of activities, they also have to foster a sense of well-being for the inhabitants—with flooring as a key component. “I do think that flooring is a recognized leader in interior spaces, and we spend so much time indoors, whether that’s at home, at school, or at work. At Shaw, we are constantly thinking about how people are experiencing these spaces, and how our products can have a positive impact. That’s why we call it sustain[HUMAN]ability. We’re putting people at the heart of our thoughts, our efforts, and our product design choices,” Ballew said. 

Those people-centric efforts have paid off, and today almost 90 percent of the products Shaw manufactures are Cradle to Cradle certified. ”Our product development is based on sustainability and our 20-year commitment to Cradle to Cradle design principles. We’re focusing on material health, indoor air quality, biophilic design, and cleanability, and Cradle to Cradle is really that framework that keeps us in check,” Ballew added.

As we’ve spent more time indoors, and less connected with the outside world, biophilic design has become more than a trend, and for Ballew, it is a prime consideration. “Whether it’s color, texture, or the material that a product is made out of, biophilia is about capturing the positiveness of being in nature and making that part of the interior.”

Products that are easy to clean are in high demand as concerns about health have come to the forefront. “Cleanability is another important element, and we’re thinking about the types of construction we offer for flooring. We want people to have confidence and feel safe, and know that they can properly disinfect and maintain our products,” noted Ballew.

Ballew noted that at Shaw, they take an all-encompassing approach to sustainability, and macro and micro perspectives are essential to their work. “I would say the impact of products on people is our primary focus and our main driver, but that doesn’t mean we can ignore global climate change, and carbon is a piece of that. From taking our commercial carpet operations to carbon neutrality, which we did in 2018, to expanding our portfolio of carbon neutral products, it’s definitely something that’s part of our overall strategy.”

Ballew looks to elements like materials, interior design, and ultimately, people and how they live, to serve as a guide. “We have to make sustainable choices for all of the spaces where life happens.”