World Climate Foundation
Push The Boundaries: Setting Bold Sustainability Targets Will Drive Innovation and Impact
By Scott Tew, Vice President of Sustainability, Trane Technologies
As we approach the no-return temperature rise of 1.5° C above pre-industrial levels, corporations have an urgent responsibility to prioritize sustainability. If we all step up to lead with bold action, the benefits will be wide-ranging. When you put sustainability at the core of your business, you not only make strides toward a healthier planet, but drive company-wide innovation and growth as well. At Trane Technologies, we’ve experienced this first-hand.
Trane Technologies is a global climate innovator. Through our strategic brands Trane® and Thermo King®, and our portfolio of environmentally responsible products and services, we bring efficient and sustainable climate solutions to buildings, homes, and refrigerated transportation.
Historically, our industry has been a significant source of emissions and energy usage. Fifteen percent of global greenhouse gas emissions are directly related to heating and cooling buildings. Another 10% of global emissions is related to food lost in transit or wasted after purchase. If we continue down this path, our industry share of global annual greenhouse gas emissions will reach 35% by 2030.
I share our company’s core belief that one company can change an industry, and one industry can change the world. In 2014, that belief inspired us to put sustainability at the center of everything we do. We announced an aggressive set of 2020 climate commitments. These science-based targets included reducing product emissions as well as cutting our own operational emissions by 45%.
Were there doubts that we could accomplish this? Certainly. However, setting aggressive goals challenged us to think and innovate differently. An investment of more than $500M in research and development enabled us to become the first company to introduce solutions for low global-warming refrigerants, reducing the refrigerant footprint of our products by more than 50%. Meanwhile, we launched dozens of climate-focused innovations, such as electric heat pumps that can replace boilers and thermal storage that cools buildings with ice. And internal decarbonization efforts reduced our global operational emissions intensity by more than 35%.
With the critical need to keep reducing global emissions, we knew our work wasn’t done. We’ve recently set even bolder sustainability commitments for 2030, including the largest customer climate commitment made by any B2B company: The Gigaton Challenge. We’ve pledged to reduce our customers’ carbon footprint by one gigaton by 2030. For comparison, one gigaton equates to 2% of the world’s annual emissions, or the annual emissions of Italy, France, and the U.K. combined.
The Gigaton Challenge requires transformational innovation. We’re accelerating clean technologies to directly address emissions at the source—developing new and better ways to heat and cool buildings, homes, and transportation. We’re pioneering technologies to increase energy efficiency and electrification, reduce food loss in the global cold chain, and transition out of the high-global warming potential (GWP) refrigerants.
Our sustainability commitments have also shaped our business strategy, inspiring us to lead by example within our own company. By 2030, we’ve pledged for Trane Technologies to achieve carbon neutral operations, reduce absolute energy consumption by 10%, deliver zero waste to landfills, and become net positive with water use.
Sustainability is the cornerstone of the company, driving an innovative culture and a mindset for action. Everyone at Trane Technologies has a role to play in delivering on our promise as a climate innovation leader.
As part of our “Opportunity for all” sustainability pillar, we have committed to workplace diversity reflective of our communities, gender parity in leadership roles, and world-class safety metrics. In addition, we’re sharing our time and resources, with a $100M pledge to build sustainable futures for under-represented students, and a guarantee of 500,000 hours of employee volunteer engagement.
What started as a shared purpose—to boldly challenge what’s possible for a sustainable world—has become the foundation for our company’s growth. It has shaped our culture and has driven us to create cutting-edge climate solutions. I have seen how it has benefited our company and believe it can do the same for other organizations.
Some of my key learnings to drive impact and innovation with bold sustainability goals include:
Define how you are connected to the problem. How is your industry contributing to climate change? What curve do you need to bend? Focus on that as your opportunity.
Think big and bold. Ambitious commitments lead to ambitious innovations. Aggressive goals challenge employees to think in revolutionary ways. You don’t have to have all the answers up front.
Establish aligned goals that engage people. Employees flourish when unified by a shared purpose, driving motivation, fulfillment, and long-term retention.
Send a signal to the market. Making bold commitments signals to the market that you’re willing to invest the time and resources needed to meet – and exceed – the demands of the market and expectations of all stakeholders. Customers won’t have to make a choice between being green and being fiscally responsible.
Take the leap to collaborate. Join global forums, work with policy makers, and collaborate across industries. Combatting climate change cannot be done alone. COP26 is a great example of partnerships, mutual agreements, shared vision and accountability—elements important to any successful collaboration with winning outcomes.
It’s our responsibility to take unified action to put the planet first. Join us as we continue to set ambitious sustainability goals, collaborate across industries, advocate for policy change, and remain transparent about our results. Together, we can change the world while positively impacting our workplaces and communities. Because when you boldly challenge what’s possible, innovation and growth will follow.