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Price Is King, But Long Live Sustainability

John Alcock on the future for being green

READING a few Ecobuild reviews, I started thinking about sustainability and what this really means in terms of flooring? I mean, if you take an absolute 100% approach to sustainability or sustainable flooring then I guess we’re looking at a future with a lot more timber and wool carpets.

Well, trees grow and we can always plant more and thanks to farmers and the Sunday roast, sheep are pretty abundant so sustainable too. On the flip-side we would see an end to nylon as this is a product of the petrochemical industry and therefore finite, linoleum and vinyl too as these are chemical- consumers.

As this is really not very likely, is sustainability just a word thrown out there with nobody really taking much notice and can it really be good for the flooring industry?

So where am I going with this? Well to some degree ‘Green’ is a bandwagon onto which most people are jumping and quite rightly so, given the monetary gains it adds over competitor or specifically non-green products, but what part do we really have to play to not only ride the bandwagon but be sincere in our motives?
I’ve always said that legislation, whilst having a role (sometimes good sometimes bad) to play in the way we do business, it is the incentive for us to make money that will ultimately make us greener and more sustainable, especially if we can see a positive link between the two. So can legislation and profitability work together? I think so; take release systems, which I have mentioned before.

Why would anybody specify such a system, with its associated extra cost to a job, if the benefit come refurbishment is to make the next installer’s tender cheaper? I mean the fact you specify, sorry suggest it in the first place might be a penny too far to secure you the job at all.

If you legislate then at least the benefits and costs weight each installer equally and you get to save the planet albeit a few thousand feet of it or so on that particular project.

Being serious again, I am not suggesting we legislate heavily on sustainability as I firmly believe the carrot is far better than the stick in changing attitudes. What I am saying though is that the flooring industry and I include the customer, have equal roles to play if we as an industr y are to become much more sustainable.

Take the many new sustainable flooring products that are emerging. I know manufacturers like Bostik and others are investing not inconsiderable sums of money into developing new adhesives, screeds, primers and smoothing compounds that can rightly fly the sustainable flag, as well as continually seeking out new product formulations that have ever greater percentages of sustainable raw materials in them.

They work hard to ensure that product characteristics are maintained where possible and that they perform as well if not better than the products they are expected to replace.

The motivation behind these new products is a combination or social responsibility, legislation and of

course profitability.

Products sell if they are competitive and as raw, non-sustainable material prices increase, the need to continue to sell product can only come from looking for alternatives. And here’s the message in case you missed it – look for alternatives.

Yes it’s true, the real key to dealing with the green issue is to not fight it, to moan or complain or even shake your head in despair, but to look for alternatives and that means alternative sustainable products and sustainable ways of operating, including your approach to installing.

Make sustainability a USP (sorry marketing speak for why someone should chose you) to differentiate yourself from the competition. You might be surprised just how many customers, and the number is increasing, are looking to a company’s green credentials as an integral part of their tender process.

Increasingly, companies have to declare their green credentials and for very large companies shareholders often insist on it and this filters down through to main contractors, subcontractors and ever yone else down the line too. Somewhere in that supply chain is you.

I know it’s tough out there and certainly for the short term tenders will be won as much on price as they are on quality or your green credentials, but this will change, and those that have a good, sincere, credible sustainable proposition will be those that succeed.

John Alcock is technical specifications manager at Bostik
T: 01785 272727

This article has been reproduced from the Contract Flooring Journal website. You can find them at