Natural Stone Council: Mortar for an Industry

Image Courtesy of Natural Stone Council

Natural Stone Council: Mortar for an Industry

December 2007


By Mark Fernande

Image Courtesy of Natural Stone Council
Image Courtesy of Natural Stone Council


For us, that doesn’t just mean working with people in the natural stone industry. It also means reaching out and partnering with allies like architects, designers and those, like you, who work with other materials in addition to stone.

The NSC was formed in 2003 in an attempt to unify the natural stone industry, which has historically been fragmented and disjointed. We wanted to create a consolidated voice under one umbrella. As such, the NSC board members represent varied industry associations:


  • Allied Stone Industries
  • Building Stone Institute
  • Elberton Granite Association
  • Indiana Limestone Association
  • Marble Institute of America
  • National Building Granite Quarriers Association
  • Natural Stone Alliance.


Last year, the NSC created a progressive and aggressive three-year plan. The primary tenets are to develop a strong brand, position stone as a preferred material in green building, and establish sustainable, long-term funding for the NSC. As we close in on the end of the first year, I want to share with you our success and ask for your support going forward.

What’s in a name?

The NSC plans to invest more than $1 million between 2007 and 2010 to support a national branding effort. This comprehensive, multimedia campaign will position Genuine Stone as a true, one-of-a-kind material that brings unique enhancements to any building or landscaping project.

Genuine Stone

A logo was developed by natural Stone Council branding partner, McKee Wallwork Cleveland, along with a branding statement:

“Genuine Stone™ is more than rock people build with. It is naturally elegant, pure and a solid indication of your personality. Whether you intend to beautify your home or to frame your vision, make sure your creation is as genuine as you.”

“As genuine as you.” That is what we want the industry and the end users or consumers to understand about Genuine Stone. The words were selected carefully, under a belief that the word “genuine” says “natural,” “real” and “authentic,” but also implies a value judgment. After all, doesn’t a genuine diamond sound better than a real one?

Through market research, we learned that natural stone possesses many desirable traits including texture, character, history, depth and endurance. We also uncovered some of the commonly held misconceptions about stone, such as maintenance, cost, and lack of variety in color and style. Ultimately, we arrived at the compelling belief that each piece of natural stone is an individual work of art.

Genuine Stone will be promoted by a continuing presence at tradeshows, such as StonExpo and Coverings, and through a comprehensive industry Web site, Prospective stone consumers are driven to the Web site through a national public relations program and through ads in trade magazines targeted at all sectors of the stone industry. To date, we have delivered our brand message to more than 4.3 million people through advertising and public relations.

It’s not easy being green

Look no further than the ancient pyramids or the Parthenon to understand that natural stone is a durable, sustainable building material. However, standing the test of time is not enough. Genuine stone’s impact on the environment and how it supports environmentally friendly building methods and principles are still in question. That is why the NSC is working to define our place in green building before it is defined for us. We feel that being on the front end of the green movement is one of the most important things we can do for the betterment of our industry.

 Image Courtesy of Natural Stone Council
Image Courtesy of Natural Stone Council

The NSC’s Committee on Sustainability, led by Cold Spring Granite’s John Mattke, is partnering with the University of Tennessee’s Center for Clean Products to test the environmental impacts and benefits of building with natural stone. We subscribe to the American Institute of Architects (AIA) definition of green building, “reducing building impacts on human health and environment through better siting, design, construction, operation, maintenance and removal — the complete building life cycle.”

Today, only natural stone that is local to a project can contribute to the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) points, which is why more needs to be done to promote natural stone as a sustainable building material.

In January 2008, we will conduct a sweeping survey of the industry to benchmark where we are and how far we need to go with regard to sustainability. This is a massive effort, given the breadth of our industry and the few standardized practices that currently exist. Our goal is to further position stone as the preferred material in sustainable building. Genuine Stone offers many attractive, environmentally friendly benefits such as durability, ease-of-care and maintenance, recyclability, and an enduring life cycle. We are now working to document and prove what we believe to be true.

Got stone?

As you might imagine, all of this progress has a financial price tag. In the short term, we rely on major contributions from stone industry associations, as well as the generous donations from individual companies. In 2007, we launched a fundraising campaign in the hopes of raising a minimum of $500,000 per year for the next three years. The industry has been incredibly responsive, and we have exceeded our goal this year. Next year’s efforts will kick off at the start of 2008.

In the long term, the NSC is putting together a plan and the necessary means to implement an industry-wide check-off program similar to those operated by the milk (Got milk?) and beef (It’s what’s for dinner) industries. In order to expand the natural stone industry’s position in the marketplace and generate significant, reliable and sustainable funding, the industry needs to agree to tax itself, as the dairy and beef (and many other) industries are doing. Preliminary NSC estimates are that this self-taxation will cost about on-half cent per dollar of value of all imported stone as well as domestically produced and processed natural stone — about 50 cents for every $100 dollars. This ongoing and stable revenue will enable the natural stone industry to grow stronger and larger through research and self-promotion. No one else is going to do it for us. If we want to be a major player, we need to step up, work together, and look out for our own best interests.

 Image Courtesy of Natural Stone Council
Image Courtesy of Natural Stone Council


You may have heard of this acronym before. It usually stands for “What’s In It For Me?” In this case, I propose it means, “What’s In It for Masons?” It’s pretty simple: The more successful the NSC is in raising awareness and, consequently, consumption of Genuine Stone, the more business the masonry industry will enjoy as a result. Certainly, masonry will benefit from requests for Genuine Stone as well as being able to participate in green building by using stone.

We are looking for partners to join us on this journey. We already know that when masons and natural stone come together, homes, castles, buildings and walls that stand the test of time are created. Let’s build for our collective future. You bring the mortar; we’ll bring the Genuine Stone.

Mark Fernandes is chairman of the Natural Stone Council (NSC). He can be reached at For more information on the NSC, visit, or contact Duke Pointer, executive director, at or 603-465-2616.


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