Mohawk Industries makes home sweet home

Kelly Dawson
January 2, 2018
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Most people, whether they believe it or not, are interested in decor.

Those of us who regularly tune into shows on HGTV or flip through design magazines may have more knowledge than others, but when it comes down to it, everyone knows what makes a stylish home.

Of course, it’s not popcorn ceilings or fluorescent lighting that does it. And it sure isn’t devoted to an abundance of bright colors or complicated prints. Those details may have had their moment, but trends aren’t what take the “for sale” sign off the lawn. Instead, people often call a house a home for its timeless details. And that’s why Mohawk Industries has been a leader in furnishings for so many years. It's offering of essential materials — like soft carpeting, wood flooring, and stone accents — will never go out of style, and hasn’t since Mohawk entered the industry more than a century ago.

But aside from Mohawk’s command of these classics, it’s also a company that’s committed to the modern concept of sustainability. Its line of products have increasingly been made with its overall impact in mind, which has diminished its footprint as its reach continues to grow. This commitment has also allowed for customers to have the ideal home of today: one that’s inherently stylish, effortlessly comfortable, and environmentally conscious.

Magic carpet ride

Before Mohawk was an impressive business of nearly 40,000 employees and $9 billion in annual sales, it was a simple example of a classic American dream.

In 1875, a man named William Shuttleworth arrived in America with his four sons and opened a carpet mill in New York’s Hudson Valley. At the time, New England was an epicenter for textile production, and the Shuttleworth brothers capitalized on it. After their father passed away, the four of them decided to move the company to a vacant factory in nearby Amsterdam and incorporate it with the appropriate name, Shuttleworth Brothers Company. They were using large looms shipped over from Britain — a meticulous process that didn’t change for generations — to grow the business, and they spent the first several years of the 20th century making a name for themselves with carpets mostly comprised of durable wool and intricate patterns.

The business didn’t take on its current name until 1920, when a merger with another burgeoning mill in Amsterdam known as McCleary, Wallin, and Crouse opted to join forces with the clan. It was known at the time as Mohawk Carpet Mills, Inc. and it was a powerhouse: its production led the industry, and it was the only national weaver to sell a full line of selections, from classic wool to velvet and chenille.

By the end of the 1950s, another merger occurred to change the course of the company. Mohawk made the decision to partner with Alexander Smith, Inc. in 1956, which ultimately ushered in a new name: the Mohasco Corporation. It appeared on the list of Fortune 500 companies for the first time, and in that position, it changed course yet again. Mohasco realized that its competition no longer relied on the detailed process of carpet making as it always had been. Instead, other companies were shunning wool for synthetic fibers like polyester that would shorten the cost and time devoted to production. Competition was taking place in the South, so eventually, Mohasco moved from New York and set its sights on Georgia. By the late 1980s, the company was operated entirely from this new home state, and a buyout of Mahasco from MHS Holdings changed the business name back to Mohawk.

In 1992, Mohawk hit the stock exchange and went about growing its assets and locations throughout the world. By last year, it had amassed 34 other worldwide companies under its name — from the likes of American Olean and Columbia Wood Flooring, to Dal-Tile and Pergo — and had 15 global manufacturing outposts. Its categories expanded to every stretch of floor in the home and office, offering materials that span from utility to luxury. And now, with a focus on sustainability, the company is poised to pivot yet again.

Have the floor

In 2016, Mohawk reported more than $3 billion in sales and operating income of nearly $500 million. In other words, it has flooring covered. If a customer wishes to have carpeting in a bedroom, laminate in a bathroom, tile in a hallway, and wood in a living space, Mohawk can supply it all. And because of this scale, its impact on the environment can be just as large.

According to the Carpet American Recovery Effort, the total weight of discarded carpet in landfills makes up millions of pounds. In California alone, where this organization is based, 107 million pounds of carpet were diverted from landfills last year. Mohawk recognizes this effort with its own commitment to reducing this waste by creating products that can be wholly recycled or made from recycled materials.

Its new carpet line Airo, for instance, is comprised of an adhesive that can be ground down and entirely repurposed into new carpet when needed. Furthermore, other lines of carpet like the Everstrand are made of recyclables, reducing plastic materials that end up in landfills. Plus, they’re just as strong and stain-resistant as their earlier counterparts. And this shift in manufacturing includes wood flooring, too: the Moduleo line is comprised of recycled PVC products.

All in all, Mohawk has more than 500 products containing recycled materials, and has processed about seven billion pounds of recycled waste. Carpeting is saved, scrap tiles are repurposed, wood installation is done with less water, and other facets of production continue with efficiency in mind. And while the company creates furnishings for offices as well as homes, more than half of its sales are devoted to residential properties. Therefore, most of these changes are for where we spend our most precious time: at home.

While most of us are not design enthusiasts, a “home” has a universal understanding that goes beyond aesthetics. It’s where we want to feel safe. For more than a century, Mohawk has helped create homes that are stylish and comfortable, sure but are also small sanctuaries from the outside world. As it continues to focus its efforts on minimizing waste, Mohawk promises to outfit our escapes as a respite for the environment, too. And that makes the idea of “home sweet home” even sweeter.

There are more than 250 companies in our combined portfolios, and they are all making amazing advancements. From names you know, like Tesla, to those little gems you haven’t heard of yet, like Xylem, we want you to know all about what your holdings are up to. These ‘deep dives’ will help you understand what you’re invested into and how your dollars are making the world a better place.

Mohawk Industries is part of our Zero Waste portfolio.

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