The scientific breakthrough in the chemistry of synthetic materials resulted in the expansion of the carpet industry in the years succeeding the Second World War. Naive of the health and environmental hazards, the American market, including the average households, was very enthusiastic about these products. However, with the redefinition of sustainability and sensitization on health and protection of the ecosystem, government entities and the public opted for environmentally preferable products. As a result, companies adopted sustainable innovations through anticipatory design, resource conservation, and material safety. Shaw Industries spearheaded this concept through the introduction of a closed loop system of production that relied on disassembly for recycling. This paper looks into factors which impact on Shaw's Strategies.
Technological advancement removed a lot of restraints on Shaw industries. The progress in monitoring equipment made it possible for the identification of harmful chemical components that were previously unknown. The hazard of PVC on health and the ecosystem became known to the public. As a result, the company had to seek alternative materials to replace the PVC backing. Besides, improved research equipment facilitated the introduction of a new metallocene polyolefin polymer that meets their performance specification. Additionally, the Eco Worx system rendered a method to analyze and perfect the cradle-to-cradle design of a carpet tile system. The production of Eco Worx employs thermoplastic electricity unlike the conventional gas-fired or forced air oven. This technique is more energy efficient. Technology helped the corporation with the smooth adoption of their green policy.
Also, regulatory factors played a significant role in shaping Shaw's policies. Multiple efforts by government bodies and NGOs affected the company both positively and negatively. The Presidential Executive Order 13101 is an example of a constructive program. It provided a guide that encouraged the purchase of environmentally friendly products by the government or any purchasers receiving federal funds. This initiative boosted the market for Shaw's carpets which were infinitely recyclable. Additionally, the National Carpet Recycling Agreement of 2002 between various stakeholders in the industry encouraged innovation and research that would reduce the amount of end-of-life carpet being disposed of in landfills. However, on some occasion, such regulations have worked against Shaw's policies. The Comprehensive Procurement Guideline, which encourages the purchase of items with recovered and reused post-customer material, excluded Eco Worx from its list that had goods that were given priority. Even though Eco Worx had the potential to achieve 100% recovery rate, it was omitted because it had not completed its initial life cycle. Although there are some favorable programs, obstacles to the green chemistry discovery still exist in the current federal environmental programs.
Shaw highly considers the impacts of the virgin materials on the health of the public. Unlike in the past, where the superiority of manmade polymers over the conventional materials overshadowed the potential health risks they embodied, the production process and the composition of the carpets are under significant scrutiny. Besides, technological advancement has enabled the identification of chemicals that might bring harm to humans. For instance, PVC backing in carpet tiles was replaced by polyolefin for reasons associated with health. Carpets made of PVC were believed to be causing 'sick building syndrome'. Also, the burning of the polyvinyl chloride produced dioxins which could cause cancer. Also, phthalate plasticizer was replaced with an inert and non-hazardous mix of polymer to ascertain material safety throughout the system. The firm added proprietary compounding process to achieve the material design.
As early as 1987, investigation and scrutiny by the public and various governmental bodies motivated the company to transform its production policy. There had been up to 130 cases of illness in multiple households linked with the installation of carpet tiles. These reports to the U.S Consumer Product Safety Commission were the first links of potential health hazard. Additionally, the Environmental Protection Authority included carpet in a list of indoor sources of chemical contaminants. The U.S Center for Disease Control had speculations that phthalates caused reproductive and endocrine disorders in animals. Such reports and concerns made the carpet industry to start looking for alternatives for these raw materials. These discussions that linked the chemicals to human health deficiencies continued in the Wall Street Journal. The pressure from the public forced Shaw to develop a product that would be wholly accepted by the general mass.
The increased concerns about waste management is another huge factor that affects the strategy of this entity. The disposal of end-of-life carpet to landfills drew a lot of disturbance. Approximately 95% of rugs produced ended up in landfills. Carpet made from PVC backing and Nylon 6.6 face are non-biodegradable. Therefore, the management of such waste costs a lot of money. Moreover, these wastes have massive effects on the quality of water and the ecosystem at large. In response to this, Shaw industries came up with a closed loop system of production that allowed for the recycling of post-customer products. The company embraced green chemistry and applied nylon 6 and polyolefin which could undergo disassembling and be used again. The cradle-to-cradle system of production permits infinite recyclability of carpets. In order to comply with the current waste management situation, the company was forced to change its policies to be in line with sustainable production.
The internal management of the company also played a significant role in the success of the company's strategies. First, the company acquired multiple companies to have a tactical advantage over the others. The leadership of Steve Bradfield was critical to the sustainability course. He is a supporter of the U.S Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program. His vision to achieve a closed looped system and exclusive use of solar power drove the company's team to success. Furthermore, the commitment to research and innovation was very crucial in that effect. In spite of the challenges, he was able to see off the most successful era of Shaw industries.
In conclusion, there are always factors affecting the operation of a business. While others might work to the advantage of a corporation's policies, others have negative impacts. In the case study of Shaw industry, it is evident that the firm strategies are affected by various factors, some internal while others out of their control. Some of the in-house elements include the management and technological breakthrough. On the other side, external factors such as regulations, public scrutiny, and public health interfered with its production policies. When these factors act together, they may result in a total transformation of an industry and innovation. The sensitization to the danger of PVC and phthalates plasticizer resulted in the introduction of a safer and economical brand of carpet.
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