Going the Extra Yard

Maharam

9. Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure 12. Responsible Consumption and Production 13. Climate Action

Overview

Founded in 1902, Maharam evolved from a theatrical textile manufacturer for costume and set design to become one of the world's leading commercial textile manufacturers today. Maharam is a pioneer in their industry and differs from their competition through their achievement of ISO 14001 certification for all its facilities. By being ISO 14001 certified, Maharam is committed to doing everything they can to reduce their environmental footprint. This includes monitoring and measuring every aspect of their daily business practices to reduce consumption and waste in the products they purchase for future production. In the development of their own products, Maharam aims to ensure that every component used has the least environmental impact compared to other viable alternatives.

Authors

Maximilian Nicholas

Maximilian Nicholas

Gabriella Manzari

Gabriella Manzari

School

Loyola Marymount University

Loyola Marymount University

Professor

Trevor Zink

Trevor Zink

Innovation

Being good stewards of the planet has always been important to Maharam, both as a point of corporate culture as well as on a personal level to their employees. In order to gain more insight into Maharam’s environmentally friendly culture, we spoke with their current President, Tony Manzari. Tony shared with us how important is for him to lead a company that takes strides to ensure humans take care of our planet so it can continue to provide for generations to come. In our interview, he informed us of two innovative activities at Maharam that embody the environmental vision they strive for. The first of which is that Maharam became the first company within their industry to achieve ISO 14001 certification for all its facilities. According to the Maharam website, the ISO 14001 certification is an "internationally recognized environmental management system which ensures that every environmental impact stemming from business practices has been identified and measured with the guidance of an environmental consulting firm, and that initiatives have been put in place to reduce those impacts." This certification was an innovative change in business practices that focused on measurable behaviors to reduce waste and usage, which relates directly to UN Sustainable Development Goal #12: Responsible Consumption and Production.

Additionally, the company has made a conscious decision to avoid all marketing “hype” and promotion in explaining their environmental position and activities. In doing so, Maharam embodies UN Sustainable Development Goal #9: Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure through their approach in how they communicate their environmental practices. Tony explained to us how Maharam is focused on sharing methods and results in a straight forward manner. In doing so, they provide specifications, environmental data sheets, material safety data, and textile finishing documentation for every product they produce. Moreover, Maharam does not feel the need to ostentatiously advertise the notion that they are a “green” company with “green” products. Instead, the concept of environmental responsibility is something that is embedded in all aspects of the company. Tony went on to say that their clients are smart people who can see through the “green washing” marketing hype they are bombarded with from most companies, so an honest and straightforward approach is appreciated and applauded by them.

Going the Extra Yard

Inspiration

The inspiration for the ISO 14001 innovation stemmed from Maharam wanting to distance itself from the “greenwashing” going on in other textile companies. Tony shared with us that, “The communication practice of sharing straightforward and transparent environmental information developed out of our own frustration and exhaustion of watching almost every company out there try to spin their way into a meaningful message.” By seeking and achieving ISO 14001 certification, Maharam was not only able to distinguish itself amongst its peers, but it also met several development goals that aligned with their long-term goals for reduction. Specifically, Maharam aims to ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns (SDG 12), promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation (SDG 9), and combat climate change and its impacts through implementation of the above (SDG 13). While these three goals have not been met globally, Maharam recognizes the importance of preserving earth's resources and wishes to push other companies within the textile industry to achieve similar environmental certification.

Overall impact

First and foremost, Tony let us know that both of these innovative projects were not started for marketing or sales related reasons. They were brought about by the desire to be more transparent with their consumers, and the desire to try and reduce the company’s overall impact on the environment. Each of these activities quickly became a part of Maharam’s environmental mission, which is to do better through an earnest commitment to lessen their impact on the environment.

Specifically, Maharam’s implementation of the ISO Certification Project provided positive change within the organization, client relations, and in the environment. Tony shared with us that “[these] new practices saved us money, created a sense of personal pride for our employees, and added to the value of our culture. These practices reduced our impact on the environment and improved our clients’ perception and the goodwill they have towards Maharam.” Maharam went out to ensure that they were held accountable for these new standards they had set up within the organization. For each product created there is extensive data provided for the product's content, environmental impact, and material finish. They have ensured that their customers hold Maharam to high standards by putting as much information as possible into the consumer’s hands. Maharam’s straight-forward approach in how they communicate their environmental practices, results, and messaging has helped enhance the company’s reputation as an industrial leader that relies on transparency versus marketing hyperbole.

Business benefit

The ISO Certification initiative was started by a group of employees who were pioneers in their own personal commitments to help take better care of the environment through activities they could control. These employees, “inspired and encouraged the Maharam leaders to embrace their cause. These people became the departmental leaders for the ISO project and were instrumental in Maharam’s success”. Because of this, the ISO project became the point of inspiration for Maharam’s communications approach. They felt that they were doing good things for the right reasons, and that this earnest approach fueled their desire to develop their environmental messaging in a way that avoided spin and focused on factual and measurable results.

Their new practices saved Maharam money, created a sense of personal pride for their employees and added to the value of their culture. Maharam’s innovate approach in how they communicate their environmental practices, results, and messaging helped to enhance the clients’ perception of Maharam as an industrial leader and also helped to strengthen their culture as their employees embraced the transparent approach.

Social and environmental benefit

Maharam is committed to reducing their environmental footprint in many ways. Most actions include monitoring and measuring aspects of their daily business practices to reduce consumption and waste in the types of products that they purchase. More specifically, through ISO 14001, Maharam aims to minimize the environmental impacts of their business practices through the following: reduction of energy consumption, reduction of water consumption, reduction of paper consumption, reduction of waste through recycling, optimization of textile finishes, facilitation of “green cleaning”, and providing incentives for employee purchases of green vehicles. Maharam does their best in developing products that have reduced environmental impact and/or use components that are the least impactful. For each textile produced, the product is assigned goals that lead to reduced environmental impact throughout the production process. The goals these products meet are listed under their textile profile on the Maharam website; this ensures the consumer has access to as much information possible about the production process to make an environmentally-informed decision. The categories Maharam sets out to reduce their environmental impact in are: product content, environmentally improved finishes and manufacturing processes, reduced toxicity, and fact-based information and transparency. In addition, Maharam encourages those businesses that they partner with to improve their practices in order to reduce the impact they have on the environment. Maharam was the first in the textile industry and the first amongst many industries to take this straightforward and transparent approach to provide the public with the details of their production processes regarding its impact on society and the environment.

Maharam is committed to finding and implementing long term progressive environmental practices that reduce overall impact. Maharam makes the promise that, “We will make every reasonable effort to put our practices through an environmental filter not only as a matter of corporate responsibility but also because we believe that this is the right thing to do.”

Interview

Tony Manzari, President

Photo of interviewee

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Maharam

Maharam

New York City, New York, US

Business Website: https://www.maharam.com/

Year Founded: 1902

Number of Employees: 201 to 500

Maharam is recognized for its rigorous and holistic commitment to design as a leading provider of textiles to architects and interior designers. Maharam embraces a range of disciplines, from product, graphic, and digital design to art and architecture.