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Path to Positive: W.F. Taylor’s Leadership Brings Healthier Adhesives to Design Professionals

Tags: built environment (604)

For W.F. Taylor LLC, product optimization hasn’t just resulted in healthier, more sustainable flooring adhesives for design and building pros. It formed the basis for tremendous leadership and business success for the 39-year-old company.

In a top-down directive, the manufacturer stopped using solvents and VOCs in its products in the 1990s. “People said we couldn’t do it. But we did.” recalls Bob Ddamulira, vice president of technology for Taylor. “And now everyone touts solvent-free.”

The resulting products put Taylor on a path of firsts. The company’s Envirotec line of carpet and wood flooring adhesives carries the CRI Green Label Plus and was the first flooring adhesive certified by Greenguard. With the product’s low emission rates, the EPA began using it as a prototype in demonstration projects.

Taylor would also claim the first adhesive certification under the Cradle to Cradle Certified program years later. The company fully embraced Cradle to Cradle because it allowed for a full assessment of ingredients and verification of claims for end users but without concern that proprietary formulations would be made public.

Their first C2C-certified adhesive easily achieved Silver, says Ddamulira, but the team knew they could aim higher. Holding the products back in the Material Health category were the third-party-provided biocides and fungicides, required ingredients to maintain shelf life and protect against fungal growth.

“We worked with suppliers to replace those biocides and fungicides with new options that still performed and were still protected.” The result? Six of Taylor’s 15 Cradle to Cradle Certified adhesives have reached Gold. “It’s certainly a result of the extra work we did,” Ddamulira says. “We went upstream and requested to suppliers that their formulations would be friendly to human health.”

The biggest challenge is to remain competitive and not sacrifice product quality. “Whatever we come out with has to be as good as or better than what came before,” Ddamulira explains. “It has to be functional and competitively priced. People are only willing to pay so much.”

Along with chemical content, Taylor as continually worked to optimize its products for renewability and recyclability. They were the first adhesive manufacturer to develop a product using a renewable, bio-based polymer: instead of petroleum-based monomers, vendors provide monomers made with vegetable oils or grass and other cellulosic raw materials.

“Most of our products are polymer rich, so using a bio-based polymer addresses the issue of reusability. They’re rapidly renewable. Polymers also are biodegradable. They can break up if disposed,” Ddamulira says.

That spirit carries over to the packaging: Rather than traditional black buckets, the adhesives come in containers made from reground HPV. 

Business Benefits
Taylor’s sustainability strides have been just as vital to the company’s growth. In the ’90s, Taylor was one of many similar small players in the industry; sustainability was a way to differentiate themselves at a time when major flooring producers were also going green. “We wanted to be a source for premium product that was really different,” says Ddamulira. “One reason why major OEM companies would come to us is that we offered more than an adhesive, more than pricing.”

“Our owners had the vision to say, ‘This is going to be a big thing, so we want to get ahead of the game,” Ddamulira explains. “At the time we were one of the pack; now we’re an industry leader.”

Cradle to Cradle not only allowed Taylor to achieve new levels of sustainability, but it keeps them on par with customer demand. With Cradle to Cradle-certified adhesives, OEM companies with C2C-certified flooring products of their own are helping to create sustainable systems, not just individual product components.

“It’s not an easy process and it’s not a cheap process, so it has to be from the top down. You need the support of leadership and ownership,” Ddamulira says. “It’s being a good citizen, but it also makes business sense, because customers are demanding it.”