Wall-to-Wall Carpet Goes Cradle-to-Cradle

4 Pages Posted: 21 Oct 2008

See all articles by Andrea Larson

Andrea Larson

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business


This minicase is one of 10 in a set of short cases written to illustrate the business benefits companies realize through adopting sustainable business strategies. This one features Shaw Industries, a leading U.S. global manufacturer of floor coverings, which developed EcoWorx technology to create a carpet tile that is PVC-free and able to be recycled, upon return to the company, as a carpet tile of equal quality and performance. Using green chemistry, the company has created a sustainable business innovation that cut costs, improves revenues, positively influences health and the environment, improves the brand, and enhances Shaw's strategic positioning going forward.



Wall-to-Wall Carpet goes Cradle-to-Cradle

In 1999 Shaw Industries, a Berkshire Hathaway company, pioneered fully recyclable, polyvinylchloride-free carpet tiles with a revolutionary new backing material called EcoWorx. The product was so successful that Shaw announced in mid-2004 that it would discontinue the use of traditional PVC backing entirely. Born of the highly competitive forces in a mature and consolidating industry, EcoWorx effectively raised the Environmental Protection Agency's Design-for-the-Environment (DfE) bar for durable goods manufacturers of all kinds. Supplier collaboration facilitated the technical innovations that allowed Shaw to produce carpet that was not only recyclable, but also maintained the performance properties of virgin material throughout the recycling process—at a reduced cost. Those reduced input costs are further boosted by manufacturing, transportation, and handling savings that result from a 40% reduction in the end product's weight. When ultimately recycled, indeed “upcycled”, those innovative tiles demonstrated that wall-to-wall carpet could go “cradle to cradle.” For its accomplishment, Shaw was awarded a Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award in 2003.

Company Overview

With popular carpet brand names including Cabin Crafts, Queen, Designweave, Philadelphia, and ShawMark, Shaw Industries of Dalton, Georgia, in 2006 was the world's largest carpet manufacturer. Shaw sold residential products to distributors and retailers and commercial products directly through Shaw Contract Flooring. The company's primary market was in woven and tufted broadloom (commonly called “all-over” or “wall-to-wall”) carpet. In addition to carpet, the company also sold laminate, ceramic tile, and hardwood flooring.

Founded in the boom years just after World War II, Shaw started out as a dye company, and grew rapidly through the acquisition of other established firms. Shaw Industries was publicly traded on the New York Stock exchange until 2001, when it was purchased by Warren Buffet's Berkshire Hathaway Inc.

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Keywords: green chemistry, innovation, carpet tiles, carpeting, EcoWorx, sustainable business, environmental, natural environment, triple bottom line

Suggested Citation

Larson, Andrea, Wall-to-Wall Carpet Goes Cradle-to-Cradle. Darden Case No. UVA-ENT-0084, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1278401

Andrea Larson (Contact Author)

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business ( email )

P.O. Box 6550
Charlottesville, VA 22906-6550
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.darden.virginia.edu/faculty/larson.htm

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