Shaw Industries: A Circularity Disruptor

Nov 1, 2021 4:45:05 PM

Supply Chain, Materials Health, Sustainability, Circularity

In this circularity series we’ve discussed circularity in detail - the definition and goals of circularity, material transparency, the role of supplier data and Extended Materials Responsibility, strategies for making circular products, and even the critiques. Across the board, we know that circularity can be challenging in these early states. It is Toxnot’s goal to be a resource for companies who have made circularity a priority. In this installment of the Circularity Series, we are highlighting one of Toxnot’s customers who is truly paving the way for circular economy in manufacturing - Shaw Industries.

Keep reading to learn more about their approach to circularity, how they’ve overcome challenges, and advice they have for other companies wanting to follow in their footsteps!


Q: What is your company’s circularity initiative(s)?  

A: Shaw designs with the end in mind – using other industries' waste as a resource in our products, creating products that are intended to be recycled into raw materials for us or other industries at the end of their use, and offering product take-back programs for our closed-loop products. 

We began our circularity journey more than two decades ago with the development of our EcoWorx® backed commercial carpet tile in the late 1990s. We used the Cradle to Cradle® design philosophy to guide our product development – and later the Cradle to Cradle Certified® Product Program to provide third-party assurance of our performance against those rigorous criteria.   


Q: What are your end goals?

A: At Shaw, we strive to create a better future and a better world. A world in which we collectively value and invest in the health & wellbeing and success of all people AND our planet. A future that’s safe and safeguarded for generations to come. That includes: 

  • Designing products focused on the health & wellbeing of people and the planet 
  • Fueling the circular economy with safe, sustainable, cradle-to-cradle inspired products. 
  • Being a positive force in the global effort to mitigate climate change
  • Creating positive social change and a more just world for all

Each of these is inextricably linked, so we can’t focus on just one aspect. To create products that fuel the circular economy, we must begin with ingredients that support the health and wellbeing of people and the planet; that are designed for their first use and any future reuse or recycling of those ingredients into future generations of products. And the use of recycled content and designing products that have a second life as ingredients in our own products or in another industry stands to lower the carbon footprint of those products – helping to mitigate climate change. 

And, of course, people are at the heart of it all. That’s our sustain[HUMAN]ability® strategy. 

For us, the Cradle to Cradle® design philosophy and accompanying product certification program helps us validate our multi-attribute approach – with its focus on material health, product circularity, clean air and climate protection, water and soil stewardship and social fairness. 

We’re proud that today almost 90% of the products we manufacture are Cradle to Cradle Certified® and those principles are embedded in our sustainable sourcing policy to ensure that no matter where or by whom a product or ingredient is made, it’s held to the same standard. 

ShawContractGroup_EcoWorxTile_2Shaw Industries C2C Certified

Q: What has been your biggest challenge so far?

A: Understanding and engaging with every part of our products’ supply chain or value chain is critical, yet challenging. There are two key areas of the product’s lifecycle that can be most challenging – I suspect for virtually every company that is creating products for the circular economy. 

  1. Suppliers – How do you effectively gather information about raw material or product ingredients? Often overcome language, cultural and time zone differences, not to mention concerns about intellectual property and proprietary information. 
  2. Whoever is in possession of your product when it’s reached the end of its first use – In our case, the person or even company that selected or purchased the flooring initially isn’t often the person or company who is responsible for replacing or disposing of it a decade or more later. 

Getting our customers to understand the importance of circularity and returning EcoWorx® to us. It seems simple, but in the eyes of some, it is easier to dump in a landfill than to make a phone call to have Shaw pick up their flooring.  

While we have offered our Environmental Guarantee since we launched EcoWorx® more than 20 years ago, we rebranded the program to the re[TURN]® Reclamation Program in 2020. Not only does the name help reiterate that we EcoWorx® returned at the end of its useful life, but we made it easier for our customers to participate and our sales associates to execute. It really helped to expand the knowledge of the program and has allowed our sales teams to educate customers about the importance of closing the loop for a circular economy.  


Q: What are you doing to try to prepare or mitigate those challenges? 

A: When it comes to engaging with our vast array of suppliers, we’re continuously striving to ensure they understand why we’re asking for the information that we do, and that they are aware of those expectations well before we need them. Ongoing supplier selection processes, engagement and education have been helpful as well as our use of Toxnot as a key central platform. 

And on the “final user,” our sales team members are increasingly helping our customers to understand the importance of circularity and returning EcoWorx® to us. 

Q: What is your advice for other manufacturers who are trying to embrace true circularity? Keys to success?  

A: Be patient and celebrate the small victories. It is significant work to find the right suppliers and ingredients for your product to ensure its circularity potential, but also to make sure that the performance of the product meets the expectations of your customers and your business standards.  

Look at opportunities to design with the end in mind – both with entirely new products as well as incremental improvement and optimization of existing products. 


Q: If and how has Toxnot helped you meet your circularity goals?  

A: We have most heavily leaned into Toxnot offerings around material health – one of the instrumental factors in creating a product designed for the circular economy. The tool has been very helpful in helping us streamline our processes and optimize our products. From supply chain outreach to the management of chemical data that facilitates our product transparency, assessment, and certification processes.  


Q: What is your vision for the future? 

A: Continued innovation.  


Since 2006, Shaw has reclaimed and recycled almost 1 billion pounds of carpet and we turn billions of plastic bottles into flooring materials each year. For example, our new PET Hybrid flooring product – known as ReWorx -- is made of 100% PET and has an average of 61 plastic bottles per square yard. And, at the end of its useful life, it is fully recyclable and can be made into more PET Hybrid flooring, which is a hybrid of soft and hard surface flooring. 

And we’re continually looking for opportunities to innovate within our other product categories. One example includes the introduction of our NXTPlay performance turf pad, which is Cradle to Cradle Certified® Bronze. This innovative, patented product is made from reclaimed synthetic turf. For every field of pad produced the equivalent of one turf field is diverted from the landfill. 


Q: How do you see circularity benefiting your business? 

A: Our circularity efforts can have a significant impact on the environment, including avoiding landfill disposal, increasing use and availability of recycled content, and reducing a product’s carbon footprint. 

From a business perspective, circularity helps cement our sustainability leadership with customers. It bolsters our reputation in the market and creates a new point of engagement for our sales team – offering a valuable product and a valuable service via our takeback program to help customers achieve their sustainability goals. And, it can have a positive financial impact, not only improving our top-line sales but reducing our costs -- for example, when the reclaimed materials are lower cost than virgin raw materials or by lowering our carbon footprint requiring us to purchase fewer carbon offsets to make them carbon neutral. 

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