Five Questions With…

GO sat down with Troy Virgo of Shaw Industries to discuss the companies ongoing sustainability goals.


Troy Virgo

director, sustainability and product stewardship,
Shaw Industries


How does the concept of sustainability impact the way Shaw develops and markets products?

“Having an overarching corporate sustainability policy, how we engage with our raw materials, suppliers and product technical development groups, means that we apply our policies across the board and not just to any one market segment.

How we message may differ from channel to channel, but the underlying focus and our approach to product sustainability is intended to ensure we have products that consumers can engage with at any price point. Our focus on sustainability and healthy materials ensures that we are not bifurcating the market.”


Can you provide an update on some of Shaw’s 2030 sustainability goals?

“Overall, it’s about taking a hard look at technologies and processes we are using to make our products. Right now, we’re in the middle of revising our materiality assessment and taking a hard look at whether the goals we set five years ago are still the most relevant and meaningful goals we need to have.

In water and energy, we are well on our way in terms of accomplishing our goals — greater than 50% already. Another area where we’ve made progress is in the number of products that are designated cradle to cradle certified — we’re now at 88%. That’s a 3% improvement over last year, but one aspect that gets lost in translation is once we get a product certified we have an ongoing commitment to continue to perform at that level to maintain that certification. I think we need to do a better job of communicating the cumulative effect of all the investments and reductions in energies that we’ve made over time.”


Does Shaw’s approach to sustainability differentiate it in the marketplace?

“At some level, yes. At the same time, most of our competitors — whether they are on the hard or soft surface side of the business — are doing good things when it comes to the environment.

However, I would say our biggest differentiator when it comes to sustainability is the focus, scope and depth of what we’re doing and not necessarily the uniqueness of any one program or approach that we’re taking. We have the same material health approaches around all of our hard and soft surface products, and we focus on reductions in energy, water and waste across our manufacturing footprint irrespective of the products or the target market for those products.”


How are you communicating these efforts to your channel partners?

“Clients on the commercial/specifier side are intimately familiar with the technical approaches, certifications, etc., specifically highlighting sustainability. We engage with them using their language.

The challenge for us on the residential side, where we’re still evolving, is not using that same language. The specialty retailer and the end consumer care about sustainability every bit as much as everybody else in our value chain and customer profile. However, I think we need to do a better job of clearly articulating it in a language that they’re comfortable with.”


What are some of the initiatives currently in place to achieve those objectives?

“We have some very specific brand focused/voice of the customer activities, we have some marketing initiatives to intentionally reach out to them and pilot studies to confirm a lot of assumptions around the residential end user.

We’re also working very hard to effectively educate our sales force and make them aware of all that we’re doing and everything encompassed by our sustainability report. Alternatively, they can make us aware of their customers’ concerns. If needed, we can either reframe what we’re already doing or change what we’re doing because we may find we’re missing something incredibly important to them.

In essence, we’re really working to help our marketing and sales groups understand the topic, so they can, in turn, be much more comfortable engaging in that conversation. It’s like any topic — if I’m uncomfortable with it, I’m unlikely to lead a conversation with you about it and vice versa.”

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