3 Ways to Incorporate Sustainability into Everyday Work15 October, 2015 / Articles
A look at global trends such as energy demand should remind leaders of businesses small and large that what we do every day matters. The key to solving the world’s pressing energy and environmental challenges is for organizations with the right expertise — like the one I lead, Ingersoll Rand — to implement measurable climate-change initiatives and take a vocal role within their industries.
Last year during Climate Week, my company took the opportunity to publicly announce a commitment to increase the energy efficiency and reduce the environmental impact of our operations and product portfolio. Our “Climate Commitment” is a pledge to achieve: a 50% reduction in the greenhouse gas emissions related to the refrigerant in our products by 2020, a $500 million investment in product-related research and development over the next five years to fund the long-term reduction of greenhouse-gas emissions, and 35% reduction in the greenhouse-gas footprint of our own operations by 2020.
In Year One, we have avoided 1.5 million metric tons of “carbon dioxide equivalent” gases (CO2e) globally, which is the equivalent of nearly 540,000 tons of waste sent to the landfill. By 2030, we expect to reduce our carbon-footprint equivalent to the energy used by 4.6 million homes.
We were able to reduce the GHG footprint of our products and create more sustainable product choices with the launch of our EcoWise portfolio of products designed to lower environmental impact without performance tradeoffs.
With the end of Climate Week 2015 and to encourage other companies to make similar bold commitments, allow me to share what we’ve learned.
It starts with leadership support. Embedding the values of your commitment into every aspect of your organization requires strong leadership to uphold these values. Asking our best thinkers to determine how we declare an environmental commitment for our company and customers was invigorating but still required a culture change. Our board of directors, enterprise leadership team, and internal and external advisory councils all have responsibility for sustainability governance and participated in setting the direction of our Climate Commitment.
From there, the commitment was elevated to one of our company’s annual strategic priorities and cascaded throughout the organization, using our goal-deployment process. This ensured all employees had a direct line of sight as to how their work supported the overall commitment of the company. One result: Our team of global operations leaders seized the opportunity to retrofit facilities with new equipment and processes that are energy and operationally efficient. They also placed a focus on emissions such as the reduction of the use of high-global-warming-potential (GWP) foam-blowing agents.
Embrace your ecosystem. Being one of the first to pioneer a commitment can be overwhelming. Taking that leap, though, has opened doors for us to create a path for customer conversations around solving business issues and accelerating the pace of product innovation. We’re working closely with refrigerant manufacturers, academic institutions and customers to develop, test, apply, and educate users about adoption of next-generation refrigerant options. To ensure our efforts are working in parallel with industry initiatives, our teams are engaging with policymakers, non-government organizations, media, and other influencers in Brazil, Canada, China, India, Europe, Japan, the United Arab Emirates, and the United States to discuss the adoption of next-generation technology.
Engage your employees. Paramount to achieving success is inspiring employees and providing a variety of avenues to help them incorporate sustainable thinking into their everyday work lives. We found this to be true through the successes of our Green Teams, a global employee network that works internally and partners with community groups. From Charlotte, North Carolina, to Wujiang, China, employees come together on activities, including riding bicycles to work instead of driving, or recycling and reusing materials versus creating unnecessary waste. Everyone is encouraged to make a difference. Last year, our employee-sustainability initiatives saved an estimated 4.7 billion BTUs of energy.
We also made sustainability training meaningful to employees. One example is our Design for Sustainability program for product managers and design engineers, which we developed with Underwriters Laboratories Environment. It helps employees incorporate sustainability-related attributes into product design and use assessment tools to identify sustainable product strategies in response to market needs.
Our experience is that when you encourage employees to form a personal connection to sustainable thinking, they are more eager to get involved in sustainable actions within your company and offering opportunities for sustainable education helps broaden the impact of those actions.
What’s next? Significant global changes will take place over the next 20 years that impact our daily lives. The growing population is projected to increase world energy demand by 37% in 2035 from current levels. These issues require immediate attention.
At Ingersoll Rand, we are looking ahead to the achievement of our 2020 sustainability targets, which keep us focused on continuous improvement in the areas of environmental impact and social responsibility, and have the added benefit of improving customer relationships and productivity. In 2016, we will introduce new products and services with improved energy performance and lower use of GWP agents that are cost effective and exceed customer expectations. We will convene third parties and industry players. And we will diligently continue to measure and reduce the carbon footprint of our own facilities and fleet.
The route to transformation is pursuing an all-inclusive approach, involving action from government, business, research institutions and academia, and the public at large to do their parts. The key is to act now to create the culture change needed to impact climate change. By taking a public stance and working with others, companies can create a path to a better world.