How Construction Specialties took on the PVC industry - and won

Construction Specialties was an early adopter in the building industry for removing PVC from products, but that also made it an early target for those that didn't want to see the PVC market share decrease. The course that the company took to avert its foes -- and emerge with a healthy business on the other side -- is a good example for early adopters to learn from.

In the late 2000s, the company received a letter from the Vinyl Institute that insisted Construction Specialties stop boasting that their interior wall coverings are PVC-free -- or the Institute would bring pressure, said Howard Williams, vice president and general manager of CS.

"It did cause us as a company to reflect, 'Are we taking the right road?'" said Williams. "It didn't take us long to reach our decision, and it didn't take our CEO long to decide we're doing the right thing and we're going to stay the course."

It's a path that has benefited CS, as it recently renewed a contract with Kaiser Permanente heavily based on the fact that they've both removed PVC from products as well as greatly disclosed the chemical and material makeup of its goods.

CS's efforts to clean up its products goes back to 1990, when a subsidiary of Union Pacific wanted to build a hazardous waste incinerator in Allenwood, Penn., just a short drive away from CS's offices in Muncy.

Williams said that CS was "modestly" involved in the ultimately successful opposition to the incinerator. The company realized, though, that by not being built in Allenwood, the plant would just end up in another community, which led CS staffers to think more about what hazardous waste they produce -- and the company even produced it at all.

"That was really an awakening for us," Williams said.

Photo of knights on chessboard provided by zirconicusso/Shutterstock

Next page: How CS got on the path to PVC-free