In 2008 two pieces of legislation were passed. One was an amendment to a 109-year-old federal law and the other a new regulation by the state of California. Each was expected to have a profound impact on the wood flooring industry in terms of the types of species being offered and how products are manufactured.
Three years into the amended Lacey Act and California’s Airborne Toxic Control Measure to reduce formaldehyde emissions, better known as CARB I and II, FCNews surveyed a number of top manufacturers and executives to see what kind of impact, if any, these policies have had on them and the industry.
“The industry has been doing very well complying with the [regulations],” said Ed Korczak, executive director and CEO of the National Wood Flooring Association (NWFA).
During the organization’s recent convention, he told FCNews NWFA has been working with many of the environmental associations such as World Wildlife Federation, Tropical Forest Trust and Rainforest Alliance “to assist our members in being able to verify the legal logging of their imported products. We’ve also been working very closely with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Department of Commerce to better define the terms of due diligence our members can do to ensure they are bringing in legal product.”
Korczak said while most wood companies have been making sure they are compliant, “the difficulty everyone has been having is the record of enforcement. The Department of Justice has not yet been able to give us clear guidelines as to what a corporation has to do to be in compliance with Lacey. That has hampered our momentum a bit.”
For the mills themselves, the issue of enforcement is beyond their control. As such, they have concentrated on those things they can directly control—from making sure the logs they source are not only obtained legally but done so in a sustainable manner, and that their manufacturing processes are up to date to allow them the ability to produce floors that meet the strictest of indoor air quality (IAQ) requirements.
“I know we say it all the time, but it’s the truth: Mannington always strives to ‘do the right thing,’” said Dan Natkin, director of the company’s hardwood business. “Compliance [with either regulation] hasn’t been an issue at any point along the way.”
In fact, when it came to being CARB compliant, he pointed out “we changed our glue system to a no-added formaldehyde system way back in 1994” so complying was easy. “Regarding Lacey, we were already diligent in our sourcing prior to the act and it has only served to strengthen our position.” Harry Bogner, senior vice president of hardwood for Columbia Flooring, a division of Mohawk Industries, said complying to either law was not difficult initially, “nor as time has gone by. Columbia welcomes these requirements and continues to benefit from both of these mandates for several reasons.”
Concerning Lacey, he said “Columbia hardwood is produced in the U.S. and exclusively features products made from domestic species that are harvested from known sources, so Lacey Act compliance comes very naturally to our brand. Columbia is not just Lacey compliant, our brand chose to become compliant almost one year prior to the government’s mandated deadline.”
On CARB, Bogner said, “Columbia’s domestically manufactured engineered products were the first in the marketplace to achieve CARB Phase 2 compliance, and earned this distinction almost one year ahead of the deadline.”
He added both Lacey and CARB statements are true of all brands under the Mohawk umbrella—Mohawk, Columbia, and Century, as well as products in the TimberFusion commercial line by DalTile.
Don Finkell, president of Anderson Wood Floors, feels the company is “doing more than our competitors, especially imports. CARB was as expected but still extensive. Lacey has been more involved but we were already doing extensive due care.”
For those wood mills north of the border, both regulations have been a non-issue. Breda Potter, brand director for Lauzon Distinctive Hardwood Flooring, said the mill is “proud to be in the forefront of the environmental movement. Lauzon has a ‘no waste’ policy regarding cutting and producing flooring thus less trees are logged for more output.”
When it comes to Lacey, Potter said, it is totally in line with Lauzon’s philosophy of protecting the forests. [We] had already put in place environmentally sound practices leading to the vertical integration from forest to floor. We can even say Lauzon was ahead of the curve on this legislation.”
While the company manages its own forests, some just a few miles from its saw mill, Lauzon has a “very stringent chain of custody in place” regardless of where the logs come from. Our buyers have been pro-active prior to the Lacey Act compliance in negotiating steady replenishment contracts where possible. If the supplier cannot substantiate the source of their product, Lauzon prefers to decline bringing the species to market.”
Manufacturers said what has made the entire process a bit easier is that the rest of the selling chain is mostly aware of these rules. “These requirements have actually worked in the favor of responsible brands such as Columbia,” Bogner said. “Retailers now rely even more heavily on companies and brands who over the years have earned their reputations as honorable and responsible corporate citizens. In addition to the peace of mind retailers derive from being associated with this type of entity, theses brands help them by reducing their time and resources ensuring the products they carry fall within all necessary guidelines.”
Potter added even though the average American consumer may not be aware of these rules they are becoming more aware “our resources are not infinite and must be protected and well managed to become renewable over time for future generations to enjoy a quality of life that is more than acceptable.”