Opportunity through action: Ingersoll RandWe Mean Business
With an estimated 30 per cent of the world’s energy consumption coming from residential, commercial and public buildings, and 40 per cent projected energy demand increase over the next 20 years, companies such as Ingersoll Rand are on the front line of fighting climate change. And the $13 billion business committed to heating, cooling and automating homes and buildings, enhancing commercial and industrial productivity, and keeping transported food safe and fresh, listed in the FTSE4Good Index, is on a mission to ensure its products are the most sustainable on the market.
Over the past two years, the company’s operations have decreased greenhouse gas emissions by 78,000 metric tons of CO2e, or 17 percent, while total energy use has declined 5 percent. By 2030, it aims to reduce its carbon footprint by 50 million metric tons.
“Making buildings more efficient is the last great untapped opportunity,” argues W. Scott Tew, executive director, Center for Energy Efficiency & Sustainability, at Ingersoll Rand. “There’s been great progress made within the automotive sector, residential homes, consumer appliances… But what hasn’t received the same attention is the need to make commercial buildings around the world more efficient.
To capitalise on this, six years ago Ingersoll Rand established an internal Center for Energy Efficiency & Sustainability. “The Center was set up as a small team of experts to do the hard work of integrating sustainability into the business,” explains Tew. “What we wanted to avoid from the beginning was stand-alone initiatives or projects on the side. My team work directly in the businesses. When design engineers work on new products, the team from the Center is sitting alongside them to challenge their thinking about the types of raw materials that they use, lifecycle assessments, understand the footprint of the product from the beginning to the end of its lifecycle… If you do that you make a long-term shift in how your future products perform, and their environmental footprint.”
In 2015 and in support of its global Climate Commitment, the company launched its Ingersoll Rand EcoWise™ portfolio of products, specifically branded for next-generation, low-global warming potential (GWP) refrigerants without sacrificing efficiency. With many products built to last for 15-20 years, designing them to far exceed current regulations also de-risks the business for the more stringent regulatory environments to come.
A constant focus on efficiency also boosts innovation, explains Tew. “Public commitments are an important motivator for our employees to innovate. We have an engineering-centric culture where we like to plan out how to solve a problem, and so having a public commitment to say we commit to doing X – whether X is a climate commitment or an innovation target – sets the bar high internally, and brings the best ideas forward.
“When you get people believing that they have a role to play, even if it’s small steps, you can make big progress. You don’t have to be an environmentalist, but you do have to believe that your personal actions count. That can translate into huge savings and huge leaps in progress for the company. We save millions in electricity use every year, tonnes and tonnes in waste reduction, and it’s all because employees believe that their small steps at a local level, in aggregate, equal big things – and it’s true.”
Tew cites a recent example from a manufacturing facility that, when moving a product from one side of the factory to another, used to wrap it in plastic film for protection. “We took that step out, and there was no negative impact. We saved not only dollars but the environmental landfill impact was even bigger. It was a step we just hadn’t challenged before.”
This may mean serious business savings, but it doesn’t have to be a serious business: innovation and weeding out inefficiency is “good fun” for a lean, engineering culture, says Tew. “Our climate commitments and energy reduction commitments are a big motivator to finding those savings.”
Read our Climate Week 2016 preview.