November 26/December 3, 2018: Volume 34, Issue 12
By Steven Feldman
Chicago—The days of flooring manufacturers flocking to Greenbuild en masse may be a thing of the past, but the country’s leading event dedicated to sustainability in the built environment still represents a viable forum for Mohawk Industries to disseminate its message. As such, the company was front and center at the international conference and expo here last month with its various sustainability platforms on display.
This marked one of the first times Mohawk pulled together its residential and commercial brands in its Greenbuild space, showcasing both hard and soft surface along with its Dal-Tile brand. “You almost can’t tell the difference now between residential and commercial when you’re designing,” said George Bandy Jr., vice president of sustainability and commercial marketing for Mohawk Group. “I think it’s important for us to show how much capacity and scope we have to offer in terms of our sustainability value and message.”
Of course, one of the primary messages, as it has been with Mohawk for years, is recycling. The company recycles 6.2 billion plastic bottles a year, which goes to plastic chip to pellets to yarn and then into residential and commercial products. Bandy said this initiative is catching the attention of the tenant improvement market in particular. “It’s been good to see that connectivity because you see more multi-family being built and they’re really interested in taking that plastic out of our waterways and communities and turning it into something people can utilize inside of spaces.”
For Bandy, who was honored with a 2018 Leadership Award from Greenbuild, connectivity and sustainability start internally. “How do I create a mindset of sustainability and connectivity with the employees on the plant floor, our manufacturing leadership team to the legal team, the marketing team, sales—everybody on the team has to have their own filter,” he said.
The key, Bandy said, is the messaging. “I think one of the challenges early on was, you tried to talk to a soccer mom the same way you talked to a CFO about sustainability, and they’ve never understood what we were talking about. That gives us an opportunity to vary our message based upon the customer.”
For Bandy, it’s not just talking about Mohawk’s sustainability initiatives but scattering seeds about sustainability in languages people can understand. There are many facets that fall under the sustainability realm, such as health and wellness, asthma, financial return, attracting and retaining talent and social sustainability. It could be the connectivity between climate change and the different aspects of how people and countries are responding to that.
“There’s such a wide array that the tent is big enough for everybody to engage and participate and find their pathway to sustainability,” he said. “There is not a one-size solution as it once was from USGBC and LEED. I think it’s varied quite a bit and gives us an opportunity to do some great things, and our message is symbolic of that. And then, how Mohawk has grown organically around our approach to sustainability. We’re trying to be a cross pollinator of sustainability throughout every aspect of our organization and what we offer to the marketplace.”
As such, Mohawk came to Greenbuild with varied sustainability stories as it relates to its products. On the resilient side, the featured product was Pivot Point, its enhanced resilient tile, billed as the first Red List-free solution from Mohawk.
“We are bringing a solution to the commercial marketplace that’s been a cry from many healthcare customers,” Bandy said. “When healthcare wanted to change the types of materials it used for things like blood bags, they went with polyolefin. Polyolefin and calcium carbonate are the main components of Pivot Point. It gives them an alternative to what has been in the marketplace, and it also represents a change in direction for us with a new solution customers can connect with.”
On the soft surface side, Mohawk featured its Air.o product, launched a few years ago at Surfaces. Aside from having the aforementioned plastic bottle recycling story, it comes with attached cushion and also provides a hypoallergenic solution for asthma sufferers.
“One of the things we’re really proud of is we have a solution that meets your needs,” Bandy said. “We don’t feel like there’s a direct application for every particular solution, so we become solution experts rather than trying to push one product.”
Dal-Tile, which made its Greenbuild debut, may have had the most basic sustainability message of all. “Dal-Tile is really just dirt if you think about it,” Bandy said. “It’s ground dirt, then you put a glazing on it and put it down. Also, Dal-Tile has always had sustainability value in terms of longevity. You can’t speak of something that has a longer performance value than tile.”
Behind the scenes, Bandy noted, Dal-Tile also boasts solid recycling and energy conservation stories. “We have a machine that takes back old tiles, crushes them and puts them back in to increase our recycled content. We also do a lot of combined heat and power projects that utilize the heat that’s created inside of that cooking machine.”
So what does tomorrow’s sustainability story look like for Mohawk? More of the same, Bandy said. “[We will] elevate the volume of products that we’re able to manufacture with sustainable solutions and stories. Also, connect those products to stories people can relate to and how we actually demonstrate that in the marketplace.”
Bandy would also like to see Mohawk leverage its market strength given its significant global footprint. “How do we create more of a stronghold of those local sustainability messages? I created my own word: glocal. You’re able to actually have a glocal presence that has one sound, one band but also has an individual trumpet, drummer or whatever might be local, but you’re able to get a synchronized sound globally.”