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Building with a conscience: stewardship & stakeholder engagement

This article is part of the World Green Building Week 2021 editorial series highlighting the role sustainable buildings play in #BuildingResilience to climate change and for people and economies.

Written by Edo Rem, Director Marketing Forbo Flooring Systems and member of the World Green Building Council Corporate Advisory Board.

Resilience. If ever there was a time for it, the time is now.

An exceptional year of global challenge due to the COVID-19 pandemic has well and truly tested our resilience levels. Such major upheaval and unpredictability can lead us to wonder where to direct our focus next.

Yet from resilience follows regeneration: to create again. A process of renewal and restoration, symbolised by the colour Green, no less. As we reimagine buildings as we know them under a linear economy, and start to design more sustainable, resilient models for buildings of the future, the principle of stewardship will help show us the way.


In its 1987 Brundtland Report, the World Commission on Environment and Development defined sustainable development as ‘development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.’

This, one could argue, is stewardship in action.

One question to continually ask ourselves is, simply:  are we leaving place and people better off than we found them?

At Forbo, our mission statement is to create better environments with a view to improving quality of life. Creating a comfortable interior environment that promotes wellbeing as well as meeting safety and hygiene standards is a worthwhile pursuit. But it’s not enough…

In 2020, we performed a Materiality Analysis of the business based on stakeholder priorities around the themes of health & wellbeing, environmental impact and social responsibility, among others.

The resulting matrix identified some very specific goals for us to focus on in our five year Sustainability 2025 programme. These range from improving indoor air quality by reducing product emissions, fine dust & allergy triggers, creating a workplace that is safe and healthy through the provision of sports and exercise activities, offering smoking cessation programmes and auditing suppliers for SA8000 on social accountability, right the way through to the creation of e-learning modules, designed to educate primary school children during lockdown on the effects of CO2.

We need to look beyond and all around the obvious supply chain to our employees, partners, communities and the environment at large.


Market competition has by definition fostered short-sightedness. However, none of us can escape the potential impact of failure to address the topics set out in the Paris Climate Agreement or the European Green Deal.

Any solution to the crisis we as an industry are facing demands cooperation, collaboration and participation between stakeholders. Co-producers and manufacturers of building materials must put their heads together to come up with hard-hitting solutions. Whether it be to pool research activities or explore collection and sorting schemes for cut-offs and end-of-life products, there is a shared responsibility to find circular solutions.

Huge progress can be made as an industry, facilitated through alliances such as the ERFMI (European Resilient Flooring Manufacturers Institute), EuFCA (European Floor Covering Association), ECRA (European Carpet & Rug Association) and MMFA (Multi-layer Modular Flooring Association), with each of whom we have strong ties.


If a sustainable floor covering were to be invented today, the outcome could be linoleum: fully biodegradable and made entirely from renewable, natural raw materials that are grown and harvested in a sustainable manner, our flagship linoleum product, Marmoleum is, in fact, CO2 negative.

Whilst we are extremely proud of our transition over to 100% green electricity and current trials with biogas, we must remain open to new approaches to the manufacturing of our products.

Again, there is much that can be learned with the cooperation and support of other stakeholders.

Pandemic or no pandemic, we have continued to press on with sustainable investments. The drying kilns, for example, that are used for Marmoleum production at the Forbo plant in the Netherlands have been equipped with a sustainable ventilation system that further reduces both energy consumption and CO2 emissions. With each new innovation, we come one step closer to circularity.

Protect and engage

Building resilient environments begins with a strong value system and a principled philosophy on business and relationships. Far from a tick-box exercise, sustainable development calls for a holistic approach that is embedded deep within an organisation’s design and its people.

Building with a conscience predates the climate crisis and sustainability targets. The quality, longevity and performance of products is intrinsically linked to the quality and sustainability of our relationships. Without integrity behind our actions and interactions, we cannot embody resilience. Nor can we build it.

We owe it to one another, and to those who will follow us, to uphold standards of good stewardship.
About Forbo Flooring Systems

Forbo Flooring Systems is a global player in high-quality commercial flooring & total flooring solutions that include Linoleum, Vinyl, Luxury Vinyl Tiles, Flocked Flooring, Carpet Tiles and Entrance Flooring Systems. We focus on environmentally friendly, functional and design-orientated luxury flooring. For us, as a responsible manufacturer, the careful use of all resources for a sustainable future is a guiding principle. Our linoleum floor coverings are made from natural raw materials and are biodegradable and CO2-neutral (cradle to gate) without offsetting. In the manufacture of our heterogeneous vinyl floor coverings, we use the latest in phthalate-free plasticizers with a base layer containing up to 45% recycled material.

To find out more about Forbo Flooring System’s Sustainability Program 2025 or the Sustainability Policy, click here.
What is World Green Building Week?

World Green Building Week is the world’s largest campaign to accelerate sustainable buildings for everyone, everywhere. Organised by the World Green Building Council (WorldGBC), it is led by our global network of 70 Green Building Councils and their 36,000 members.

Join us from the 20th–24th of September 2021 to find out how our network is accelerating the Sustainable Development Goals towards an inclusive and resilient net zero built environment.