Sustainable Company Awards 2023

An innovative wood alternative tackling deforestation

ACRE by Modern Mill uses discarded rice husks to create a sustainable wood-alternative building material. The company's chief marketing officer, Kim Guimond, outlines its environmental and aesthetic advantages – and what makes it a compelling investment.

Environmental Finance: What sets ACRE apart from other sustainable building materials and imitation wood composites?

Kim Guimond: Before ACRE, sustainability often meant compromise. Green products were niche, expensive, and didn't perform as well as the wood. Traditional composites looked and felt plasticky, were hard to use and their impact on the environment was questionable. ACRE is unmatched in sustainability, workability, and beauty. It's sustainability without compromise as it's 100% tree-free. It's made from upcycled rice husks, a form of agricultural waste, it's recyclable, made in a zero-waste manufacturing environment, is a circular product, and provides LEED points for green building.

Kim GuimondInstallers also love working with ACRE. If you can work with wood, you can work with ACRE; no special tools or training are required. It even performs better than traditional building materials in terms of durability. It is also the first composite product you can stain, just like wood. It's capable of fine craft and interesting design as you can thermoform it, digitally print on it, and more.

ACRE has the warmth and feel of wood with the convenience of composites. In its natural state, ACRE has a gorgeous grain, when stained it can present as ipe, teak or cedar. ACRE is water-weather and pest-resistant, and it's warrantied to last a lifetime.

ACRE is available as sheet goods, which are a canvas for several applications from furniture to cabinetry and wall and ceiling panels. We also mill the sheet goods into finished products of facades, decking trim boards, porch flooring, and more. Additionally, large manufacturers use ACRE technology to replace wood in their products. Endless markets can be served by ACRE making it a true substitute for wood in non-structural applications.

EF: Have imitation wood products been spurred by the COP26 zero-deforestation pledge?

KG: The edicts that came out of COP26 are encouraging. However, there is a lack of pragmatic solutions that can be implemented today to achieve those goals in an accelerated timeframe. We launched ACRE to be part of the solution. It's proven, tested, and trusted. And, it's ready now. It can replace wood in any application – except for structural - and there's no compromise to design, workability, or craft.

In addition to government pledges, consumer preferences are also fuelling the desire for more sustainable and cleaner options for their homes. People are more aware today of the impact of the products they use and are looking to work with organisations that are purposeful in what they do.

EF: How effective is ACRE at preventing deforestation and how else does it benefit the environment?

KG: We have calculated that in 2022, ACRE products contributed to saving the equivalent of approximately 44,000 acres of tropical rainforest or 13,000 softwood trees. We've upcycled more rice husks than all the garbage collected in the city of Cincinnati annually. ACRE can also have a lesser negative impact on biodiversity when compared with products like bamboo that can overrun these environments. As a company, we also ensure human rights are honoured, our employees are treated with respect, and their safety and well-being are a priority.

EF: Where else are you seeing growth in the sustainable building products industry?

KG: With ACRE we aim to achieve true sustainability without compromise. There are other companies and products also doing great things, such as with recycled glass. Innovative companies like ours are showing the world that you can do the right thing, you can make the environmentally sound choice and you don't have to sacrifice on aesthetic or performance. Companies like ours continue to expand this market, which is good for consumers, good for the environment, and good for business.

EF: What makes Modern Mills an attractive company for sustainable investment?

KG: There is a gigantic market and opportunities for ACRE. Many competitive manufacturers have limited market potential; they tend to sell a singular product such as decking or facades for instance. ACRE's market is unlimited in many ways as its unique qualities set us up to compete with wood – and the conversation wood from composites is just beginning

Today, wood makes up 75% of the market but the composite market has grown to 25% in the last 25 years. Continued adoption is poised to happen faster due to innovation in improved aesthetics, sustainability, and an uptick in consumer demand.

We believe ACRE is well-positioned to take market share from wood as well as traditional and inferior composites due to its price, and attractive lifetime economics with a strong return on investment (ROI) compared to maintenance and replacement of wood or inferior products.

Finally, the feedback we have had from our customers is ACRE's value proposition is appealing and the global brands we work with say they are able to showcase their sustainable advocacy and leadership through the use of ACRE

These are just a few reasons that have catapulted our success and why we're optimistic about the future.

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