Steve and Teresa Roscoe have positioned their wood-flooring company at the cutting edge of the market supplying the emerging green building movement in North America. Woodland Flooring was an early adopter of Forest Stewardship Council® (FSC) certification and one of the first small businesses in BC to measure, reduce and offset its carbon footprint.
“Woodland has been poised as a green business since our beginnings and I'm finding more and more customers are coming to us because they know and trust that we're always looking in that direction,” says Steve Roscoe, general manager of Comox-based Woodland Flooring.
"Increasingly, customers are seeking out environmental building materials and we're learning as fast as we can so we can give them knowledgeable, well thought out answers,” he adds. “We're seeing an increase in sales, in a large part I think, because we're working for the greater good. The triple-bottom-line is integrated and working for our business. For our employees, I think it's a much more interesting place to work because of these things we do. And we've had lots of recognition from the local media. We've been really supported.”
It was only a few years ago that he worried about the “huge lack” of consumer knowledge about eco-certified wood products. “In fact,” he said at the time, “there's almost no knowledge at all.”
Yet the entrepreneur in Roscoe was undeterred by the initially weak demand. He was committed to develop good quality products that were good for the environment too. With loans from Ecotrust Canada Capital, Woodland Flooring was able to boost its inventory and thus reduced its delivery time from about five to two weeks. Solid and engineered floors are both processed in their Comox facility where their focus is on making wide-plank floors from BC woods such as Douglas fir, beetle-killed pine from the Interior, red alder and Pacific maple.
The company is now certified as a chain-of-custody manufacturer by the Forest Stewardship Council® and produces over 20 percent of its flooring as eco-certified. Now approaching ten years in business and the magic one million dollars per year in sales, Woodland Flooring has sold its products across Canada and the USA.
Woodland also joined Ecotrust Canada's Carbon Smart Workgroup for Small Business that takes businesses through the process of measuring, reducing and offsetting their carbon foot. The company's carbon footprint was about 48 tonnes.
“In 2006, we invested in a new energy efficient kiln which saved us $1,500 in power and cut our carbon emissions by 17 percent,” says Roscoe. “Next year (2008), we plan to offset our remaining carbon footprint and become a carbon neutral company.” (To view press conference video of Roscoe, click here.)
The company is exploring other strategies to cut its greenhouse gas emissions including working with suppliers to increase use of biodiesel in delivery trucks, switching from a propane-powered forklift to an electric one and, perhaps, installing a biomass burner.
The company with a big vision started small. In 1992, Roscoe moved to Vancouver Island to raise his family. He put his woodworking skills to use renovating the Mount Washington Ski Resort near Courtenay. The resort manager loved the alder paneling and asked him if he could do an alder floor in his home. “That for us was the start of the business,” Roscoe recalls.
He then started manufacturing flooring in his small garage, using under-utilized species such as alder and maple or salvaged wood. In 1999, pressures to expand forced a move into a 6,500 square-foot facility and the company became an FSC®-certified chain-of-custody manufacturer. He equipped the new facility with a dry kiln, moulder, sander, end matcher and finishing equipment. The manufacturing plant was fully operational a year later with eight employees and prepared Roscoe for an expansion into the American market.
Woodland began supplying wide-plank, solid wood floors to the high-end log and rustic home market. “We got a great response,” Roscoe says of his foray into the United States. “People loved it.”
He established dealers in Lake Tahoe and Seattle and soon had a third of sales going south of the border. “In the United States, the market was bigger, the orders were bigger and so were the profits,” he adds.
During a marketing trip down the I-5 highway to southern California in 2003, however, he hit a roadblock. About 80 percent of the flooring dealers wanted “engineered” wood flooring, which can withstand greater environmental stress, such as moisture and temperature changes. Solid wood flooring tends to warp under stressful conditions.
Roscoe was faced with a challenge, either limit himself to the rustic home market or diversify the product for use over concrete and in commercial buildings which require engineered flooring. He also saw an opportunity in green buildings. “We needed to branch out,” he says.
Within six months, he developed engineered flooring. “We needed to make it quickly and affordably,” he says. The product is made from five multi-directional wood layers. The top layer consists of 4.7 mm of salvaged Lodgepole pine or Douglas fir or selectively harvested alder.
“Now we had a product that filled all the requirements of the market,” says Roscoe. “It just seemed a natural to bring together eco-certification and engineered flooring technology.”
Roscoe's environmentalism is about more than clever marketing, however. Sustainability is at the heart of his company's mandate. “FSC® certification and becoming carbon neutral is something we are doing on principle,” he says. ”It shows our commitment to the environment and future generations.”