A Better Approach to Sustainability Is a Better Approach to Business

by George Bandy, Vice President of Sustainability, Mohawk Industries
May 24, 2018 1:05 PM ET

This content originally appeared on GreenBiz.com

Is sustainability really good for business? We at Mohawk have proven the answer is unequivocally yes. We have seen firsthand that being a leader in the flooring industry and being able to leave a handprint — or net positive impact — are not mutually exclusive.

In our 2017 Sustainability Report, recently released to coincide with Earth Day, we show how business decisions formulated within a corporate social responsibility framework have resulted in great dividends for the world’s largest flooring company, its customers, its employees and communities — and ultimately, for Mother Nature as well. At Mohawk, we see enormous opportunities and potential — for both our company and the people and communities we serve — in taking a holistic corporate approach to sustainability, health and wellness.

Each year, we invest in innovations across product, process and people that are more sustainable and promote healthier living and working environments. Since 2015, Mohawk has reduced water consumption by 442 million gallons, even as the company continued to grow through eight acquisitions. Since 2010, we have reduced our greenhouse gas intensity by 5 percent, energy intensity by 4.61 percent and water intensity by 36 percent, all while simultaneously doubling our business.

So we have great faith in this kind of approach, which is quite simple: Believe in better and do more with less. This calling to "Believe in Better" has translated into actions and activities that deliver better results for all stakeholders, internal and external, through sustainable processes and innovative products.

In fact, we view waste as an opportunity to create beautiful flooring. In 2017 alone, Mohawk recycled 6.5 billion pounds of waste, including 6.2 billion plastic bottles. We converted 146 million pounds of foam trim into carpet cushion and transformed 42 million pounds of rubber tires into welcome mats.

We are committed to a circular economy from start to finish. Through our carpet reclamation program, ReCover, Mohawk removes old carpeting from customer projects, then donates it to nonprofit organizations to divert it from the landfill. Since 2006, ReCover has given 159 million pounds of carpet new life. Mohawk uses a variety of pre-consumer and post-consumer content as raw materials in many of its products. Quick-Step laminate planks, for example, are made with 74 percent recycled content from wood waste. Glass is melted down from bottles, jars and windows to be molded into shimmering new Daltile mosaic tiles. We recycle PET plastic bottles and turn them into the fiber we use for our EverStrand carpeting.

We team our recycle, reduce and reuse efforts with thoughtful innovation to create flooring that helps to achieve green building designations (from Living Building Challenge to LEED certification and WELL Building Standard) and help our customers achieve their own sustainability objectives. Here are a few examples:

  • Product transparency: Mohawk offers an extensive portfolio of products with complete disclosure of ingredients and chemicals through Declare labels, which are like "nutrition labels" for building materials. Our Declare labels help consumers and designers make wise sustainability choices.
  • Air.o: Our hypoallergenic Unified Soft Flooring (USF) solution minimizes physical stress on installers and features moisture resistance that reduces household odors. Composed of 100 percent recycled PET, Air.o can be completely recycled into new carpet at end-of-life.
  • Lichen: The world’s first floor covering to achieve Living Product Challenge Petal Certification is inspired by the idea of "Nature’s Carpet." This Red List-free commercial carpet plank collection is on track to give more back to the environment than it takes.
  • EcoFlex matrix: The latest addition to the EcoFlex family of carpet tile backings is a lighter-weight option for shipment to customers. It contains no harmful chemicals and is comprised of a minimum of 40 percent recycled content.
  • Virtual reality: Using virtual reality technology, we empower consumers and designers to envision products in their spaces and create exciting solutions. This tool saves time and eliminates the endless trail of mockups and sample materials that otherwise would end up in a landfill.

Over the years, our thoughts about and approaches to sustainability have evolved into this notion of holistic corporate social responsibility. They have manifested themselves into initiatives around safety, wellness and training programs that help our associates lead healthier, more fulfilling lives. It also translates into actively working in our respective communities to improve the lives of our neighbors — from donating and delivering more than 100,000 bottles of water to hurricane-devastated Houston to hosting farmers’ markets at our facilities to supporting the Appalachian Trail Conservancy with a portion of Lichen’s profits.

Embracing this sense of duty to social responsibility, Mohawk associates across all business units and brands are doing better together as well: a Daltile team helps rebuild a coworker’s house, which was destroyed by Hurricane Irma; Mohawk employees package over 10,000 meals through Rise Against Hunger; Mohawk and its employees maintain life-changing partnerships with United Way and Susan G. Komen.

In so many ways today — and in so many ways we haven’t even thought of yet — Mohawk and its employees are reducing our industry’s environmental footprint and instead leaving a positive handprint on the planet. We lead the industry in sustainability and that’s because we’re constantly seeking new and innovative ways to be good stewards — not just because it’s good for business, but because it’s the right thing to do.

Mohawk’s successes are a testimony to our company-wide commitment to environmental and social responsibility. We invite you to see this commitment in action in our latest Sustainability Report, available at MohawkSustainability.com. We have just one planet to call home and one shot to get it right. Won’t you join us on this journey to do better together?