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Organizational Change
How Can We All Help Sustain HUMAN Ability?

In this four-part series, Shaw will be exploring trends in where and how we live, and the movement toward more sustainable housing, offices and other buildings that embraces occupant wellbeing.

As much as I love to spend time outside hiking with my family, exploring new countries with my husband, or enjoying the lake or mountains with friends, my average day is spent largely indoors. And I’m not alone. On average, people spend approximately 90 percent of their time indoors.

With this being the reality for so many of us, it’s no surprise that the definition of sustainability has broadened beyond traditional operational measures (such as energy, water and recycled content), and even social and philanthropic impacts, to an increased interest in material health and how commercial and residential spaces impact people.

Some are calling this the “second wave of sustainability” — and there are a number of factors pointing to and driving this market shift.

Sustainable building programs and design standards are evolving to embrace and consider factors such as material health and noise alongside other building performance metrics. At the same time, new standards have emerged such as the WELL Building Standard, with a stated mission to improve human health and wellbeing in buildings and communities throughout the world. The US Green Building Council’s LEED certification (LEED v4) includes a focus on material health as part of the latest iteration, and there is a proliferation of new certifications and reporting tools available to assess or disclose chemical ingredients. This shift is not limited to the building industry. Major mass merchant, outdoor and online retailers and others have unveiled chemical strategies in the past few years.

Behind the evolution

NGOs are publishing reports, engaging with media, and fostering relationships with elected officials and like-minded organizations. They are advocating for policy changes and drawing scrutiny to the ingredients that go into products, and their potential impact on people and communities and the environment.

Industry and mainstream media are also elevating the focus on wellness in the built environment. And, there is an increase in consumer consciousness of healthy living, healthy homes and wellness topics. What was once the territory of niche media has now become common coverage for more broad-based print media, TV news and radio.

Discussions about chemicals of concern — that were previously limited to technical conferences or solely focused on food, cosmetics and consumer products — are now becoming mainstream within the built environment sector.

As a global flooring manufacturer, our 20-year commitment to Cradle to Cradle® principles provides a framework that focuses on material health and the ingredients that go into our products. Additionally, our sustainability efforts not only include ongoing evaluation and improvement of our operational footprint, but also an ever-broadening range of topics — from moisture to sound abatement — through the sustainability lens. We believe that everyone should have access to safe, sustainable products for their homes and workspaces.

With greater access to information, consumers are increasingly curious about what ingredients are going into their homes, workplaces and schools. Expectations about how products are designed and how those products impact the people that use them. It’s a journey we’ve been on for two decades, but the market is ever-evolving; new information emerges daily; and technology frequently changes. It presents an opportunity for us to continually think about how we can best create a positive human experience with our actions.

Over the next three months, Shaw will be exploring how this shift is impacting specific sectors — and how we can all help sustain HUMAN ability. We’ll look at trends in where and how we live, and the movement toward more sustainable housing that embraces occupant wellbeing. We’ll focus on places where we work, and how sustainability factors into other demographic, societal and design shifts. And we’ll examine the intersection of sustainability and healthcare — looking at how caregiver training and the spaces where we heal are changing.