October 24/31, 2016: Volume 31, Number 1
When the CBS program “60 Minutes” ran its initial expose on Lumber Liquidators and problems associated with imported laminate flooring from China in 2015, ripples echoed through the marketplace. On one hand, consumers voiced their concerns about product safety, calling into question the credibility of a retail brand name they had come to know and trust. At the same time, specialty floor covering retailers doubled down their efforts to work more closely with suppliers and vendors to ensure the products they sourced and developed did not poise health risks to customers.
Manufacturers, for their part, responded immediately by providing chain-of-custody documentation as well as relevant environmental and operational certifications to demonstrate their compliance with regulatory statutes pertaining to the production of laminate as well as engineered hardwood flooring products. Many companies also saw the situation as an opportunity to promote the advantages of domestically made products.
While there was no similar “lightning rod” environmental issue dominating headlines in 2016, responsible suppliers are not resting on their laurels. Rather, many are taking the opportunity to reinforce the message that they are continuing to meet or surpass the guidelines and federal/local regulations governing the manufacturing of engineered floor coverings. Following are some examples of how suppliers are keeping it clean by meeting or exceeding environmental compliance standards.
American OEM is proud to say its products are “American-made to American standards.” Why? Because it is the company’s belief that American manufacturers are held to a higher level of expectations—from consumers, the government, American competitors and trade associations. In fact, American OEM recently announced it is CARB 2 exempt due to the fact that it has consistently tested within compliance over time.
In addition, American OEM management sits on the boards of directors of the National Wood Flooring Association, the Hardwood Plywood and Veneer Association and the Hardwood Federation. American OEM actively engages with these associations to understand and follow best industry practices. It uses their labs for testing and manufactures according to their standards, ANSI/HPVA EF 2012. The company advocates alongside its peers for industry positions within the D.C. establishment. It was involved in the industry’s efforts to engage with CARB to develop a practical and enforceable formaldehyde standard. American OEM also supports industry engagement with the EPA to adopt a similar standard for the rest of the country, which it believes will be coming in the near future. The company believes a minimum level of compliance is a good thing for the industry because it instills trust that its products are safe as well as beautiful and durable.
Armstrong has been in business over 150 years and has always stood by its products, making and selling flooring with integrity. Each company is different and, like anything else, it would be wrong to assume all manufacturers, Chinese or domestic, behave the same way. The best way to demonstrate compliance is through testing. In the case of laminate, Armstrong sources product for both Armstrong and Bruce brands. They are made to company specifications, which require adherence to all environmental, health and safety regulations, including formaldehyde emissions, U.S. Federal government mandates and state regulations such as the California Air Resources Board (CARB 2). Armstrong’s suppliers have their products tested at independent certified labs and then regularly provide the test results.
Armstrong only accepts products that are certified to meet CARB requirements. In addition, on an annual basis the company randomly tests its products at the Hardwood Products Veneer Association (HPVA) lab in Virginia for Occupational Safety and Health Administration requirements. As always, Armstrong is committed to providing the best quality, safest products by taking the steps necessary, including meeting and even exceeding regulatory requirements.
Armstrong has supply agreements in place requiring suppliers to follow CARB regulations. In addition to those agreements, the company is committed to taking actions to make sure it sources compliant products, has certificates and labels product properly. To support these initiatives, Armstrong has sourcing managers on the ground in China and product stewardship personnel in Lancaster, Pa., who ensure product compliance and regularly monitor that testing and certifications are up to date.
Johnson Hardwood only sources from responsibly harvested forests in the U.S., China, Brazil and Canada. Government regulations in all of these countries have become much more stringent over the last decade, and Johnson Hardwood supports their efforts to protect their forests. China’s Council for International Cooperation on Environment and Development regulates sustainable development through environmental policy and reform. There are Six National Key Forest Programs regulated by China’s State Council that include the promotion of economic development, natural resource management and environmental protection, taxation and regulation of timber markets as well as international trade and investment.
“Years ago, there were many doubts about products produced in China,” said Bill Schollmeyer, CEO of Johnson Hardwood. “As quality and design improved, those concerns were pretty minimal. There was an uptick in questions about formaldehyde when the Lumber Liquidators story broke [in 2015], but I feel the impact against the more legitimate, well-known companies like Johnson was pretty minimal. It’s probably a different story for smaller, unknown companies.”
Similarly tough standards are also enforced in other countries. For instance, to comply with global sustainability, Brazil adheres to forest certification as regulated by the Forest Stewardship Council. Meanwhile, Canada’s forest and lumber industry is regulated by the Canada Environmental Protection Agency. The United States, through the enactment of the Lacey Act, has helped other countries by preventing the importation of any hardwood product that is not legally harvested according to the rules of its country of origin. The Lacey Act requires end users of endangered wood to certify the legality of their supply chain all the way to the trees. If an importer knowingly imports tainted wood that has been illegally cut down for lumber, they may face enforcement by the Environmental Investigation Agency and the U.S. Department of Justice.
Long before it became fashionable, Lauzon made a commitment to building a business around environmental and social responsibility. Lauzon set out to rigorously adhere to forestry stewardship best practices and hold itself to the highest environmental standards. As stewards of nearly 2 million acres of forest, Lauzon carefully plans and executes all of its harvests and works tirelessly to do things right, from forest to floor.
Whether Canadian or imported, Lauzon chooses only wood sourced from sustainably managed forests. Lauzon’s portfolio even includes a selection of FSC-certified products such as its Canadian hard maple, which boasts one of the shortest carbon trails in the industry. Lauzon is also ISO 14001 certified for environmental management practices and Rainforest Alliance Certified, which guarantees the product purchased has been grown and harvested according to environmentally and socially responsible practices. In addition, the company’s state-of-the-art sawmill allows it to precisely calibrate production for high yield use of every block of wood.
To minimize the environmental footprint, Lauzon implemented a zero waste policy.
All of Lauzon’s hardwood floors are manufactured without solvents, VOCs or formaldehyde, are fully compliant with CARB 2 and meet the strictest standards for toxic emissions. Lauzon flooring has been tested according to ASTM E1333-02 standards for formaldehyde emission, and the results indicate an emission level so low it is barely within the detection limit of 0.003 ppm.
All applicable Mannington flooring products comply with the California Air Resource Board’s (CARB) Airborne Toxic Control Measure (ATCM) 93120 Title 17, California Code of Regulations, and meet or exceed CARB 2 standards. The vast majority of Mannington flooring is also FloorScore IAQ certified, which means the products are independently certified by Scientific Certification Systems to comply with the emissions criteria of the California Section 01350 program. Both CARB and FloorScore test for formaldehyde. Any product that has met these stringent standards is considered a low-VOC product that will contribute to good indoor air quality.
Looking at individual product categories, Mannington laminate flooring is 100% made in the U.S. at its manufacturing facilities in North Carolina. The products are certified to a standard set by the North American Laminate Flooring Association (NALFA) called the NALFA LF-01 standard. In the hardwood category, more than 80% of Mannington’s engineered hardwood products are made in the U.S. at its manufacturing facilities in Alabama and North Carolina. All domestically produced Mannington hardwood products are FloorScore IAQ certified while all imported hardwood flooring products have been tested and comply with CARB 2. In resilient, Mannington sheet, Adura and porcelain do not contain formaldehyde. Furthermore, all three product categories have been certified to the FloorScore IAQ standard.
Mannington has a long-standing commitment to quality and safety. All of its products have passed third-party environmental testing and meet or exceed the highest standards in the industry.
Mercier Generations products are Greenguard Gold Certified—the highest environmental certification on the market—and are made using 100% pure soybean oil. Mercier Generations flooring passes stringent environmental tests at every step in the finishing, dying and varnishing process in order to meet that standard. The Greenguard Gold Certification requirements comply with California’s Department of Public Health Services Standard Practice for Specification Section 01350 (California Section 01350) for testing chemical emissions from building products used in schools and other environments. Formerly known as Greenguard Children & Schools Certification, the standard offers a strict certification criteria, considers safety factors to account for sensitive individuals and ensures a product is acceptable for use in environments such as schools and health care facilities.
Beyond that, every adhesive used in Mercier’s engineered products are free of urea-formaldehyde and hardwood plywood used in Mercier’s engineered products are CARB 2 compliant. In addition, laboratory tests reveal that Mercier Generations finish does not have any formaldehyde emissions and performs beyond the LEED norm and the environmental certification choice program regarding VOCs.
Since 1983, Boa-Franc, the makers of Mirage hardwood floors, has advocated a management policy based on five fundamental values: passion, innovation, integrity, commitment and respect. At Mirage, everything is done with one eye on sustainable development because the company firmly believes there is no better way to meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Its corporate values and strategies were geared toward sustainable development from the very beginning.
Some examples of this stewardship in sustainability measures include the procurement from vendors who practice responsible forestry methods according to the Lacey Act. In complying with this law, Mirage makes international environmental protection a priority as part of its approach to sustainable development. The Mirage brand guarantees customers peace of mind by providing them with hardwood floors made from natural resources that are soundly managed and legally harvested.
Furthermore, all Mirage products are manufactured in North American facilities, which enables complete control in all facets of production, including meeting implemented ISO-9001 standards. Mirage products are also FSC certified, meaning the raw materials used in the manufacturing process have been inspected and legally harvested in non-genetically modified forests where traditional and civil rights are respected.
Mohawk’s commitment remains to responsibly manufacture and provide the highest quality engineered hardwood and laminate floors that meet strict U.S. guidelines. Products across the Mohawk Hard Surface, Quick-Step, Columbia, Century and Pergo portfolios have earned the following health and sustainability certifications: CARB Phase 2, NALFA and FloorScore. In addition, all of Mohawk’s hardwood flooring is Lacey Act compliant, ensuring the timber used is responsibly harvested from sustainable forests, and Appalachian Hardwood Manufacturers (AHMI) has verified data from the U.S. Forest Service that Appalachian Hardwood Territory timber—which Mohawk uses in select hardwood flooring lines—is sustainably certified.
At Mohawk, it is a priority to make certain the products retailers receive surpass the most rigorous testing. Mohawk, Quick-Step’s Q-Wood, Pergo, Columbia and Century domestically produce engineered hardwoods utilizing technologies such as PureBond, an innovation that replaces formaldehyde adhesives traditionally used in the manufacture of engineered wood products and eliminates formaldehyde emissions associated with UF adhesives. Also, Quick-Step, Pergo, Columbia and Mohawk’s patented glueless Uniclic Technology provides fast, easy installation of laminate planks without adversely impacting indoor air quality.
Shaw Floors has a long-standing commitment to sustainability, and it carefully considers the impact of its products throughout their lifecycle on the environment and on society. Shaw examines the ingredient materials, the impact of its supply chain, the use of natural resources, and the ability to recover and recycle its products. The company manufactures many of its own products and sources from strategic partners in the U.S. and internationally to offer a broad portfolio of products to meet diverse customer preferences. In doing so, the company sets high standards for itself and its suppliers. Shaw takes numerous steps to verify that its products—regardless of where they are manufactured or who makes them—meet customers’ high expectations. These steps include: performing manufacturing site inspections to ensure suppliers meet the same high-quality standards Shaw observes; setting raw material specifications that restrict the use of certain chemical substances of concern; and ensuring all products meet the indoor air emissions requirements of California Department of Public Health (CDPH) Standard Method V1.1 (2010).
Shaw laminate and engineered hardwood products are third party tested and meet or exceed CARB 2 requirements. These include CARB 2 and GREENGUARD Certification, which gives assurance that products designed for use in indoor spaces meet strict chemical emissions limits, including formaldehyde. All of Shaw’s hardwood and laminate products—regardless of where they are manufactured—are independently verified by Underwriter’s Laboratories as part of its voluntary participation in the GREENGUARD program. In addition, Shaw also has its products assessed for material health and other sustainability attributes under the voluntary Cradle to Cradle Certified Products Program. Shaw’s laminate products are in the process of undergoing C2C certification assessment. Lastly, Shaw maintains compliance with Lacey Act, which stipulates that wood must be legally sourced, harvested and delivered.
Wickham Hardwood Flooring puts a strong emphasis on the issue of compliance.
Located just outside of Drummondville in Wickham, Quebec, the company has always been committed to looking out for the environment and its customers’ well being and peace of mind since its inception in 1989. That peace of mind comes from working with some of North America’s most reputable lumber suppliers over the past 25 years—companies that stand behind their products and have gained a level of trust that is so important in today’s marketplace. Many of Wickham’s lumber suppliers are FSC certified and practice the highest standards of sustainable forestry.
Wickham flooring is produced entirely in North America, where forest management and timber production are subject to the strictest environmental laws and regulations in the world.
Customers can rest assured knowing not only where Wickham obtained its flooring, but that the company was able to keep track of each and every load. In addition, Wickham Hardwood Flooring has continued to stay on the forefront of the newest and safest finishes the industry has to offer. The company has chosen two prominent companies to partner with on its oil finishes—Akzo Nobel and Woca. Akzo and Woca are widely known as innovators and manufacturers of the best finishes. The Woca UV oil finish, for example, features plant-based oils and zero VOCs, while the Akzo Nobel UV finish Wickham uses on all its smooth floors boast the lowest VOCs.