By Scott Tew, Executive Director, Center for Energy Efficiency and Sustainability at Ingersoll Rand
September 2017 was the fourth warmest September on record and both 2015 and 2016 saw atmospheric carbon dioxide levels increase 50 percent more than the average annual increase, according to NASA. Considering these documented examples of a changing climate, it’s no secret that work still needs to be done to support a low-carbon, sustainable economy.
While each of us must do our part, collaboration is essential to taking effective action on climate change – such as keeping the global temperature increase below two degrees Celsius, a limit outlined by the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. With this in mind, here are three key considerations for business leaders seeking to partner on efforts to reduce carbon and environmental impacts, and advance long-term sustainable solutions.
Define and Align Priorities with Partners
Developing the right connections can help businesses drive toward climate goals. This may seem obvious, but how exactly can business leaders identify the right partner? The most meaningful partnerships arise from collaboration focused on similar end-goals. Therefore, business leaders should remember not to stray from their company’s culture and mission by aligning with an organization that’s out of their comfort zone.
Moreover, it is important to find partners that not only match your organization’s values, but also do not require you to compromise on your strategic priorities. For example, the NRDC was a natural partner for my organization, Ingersoll Rand, because they focus on both policy and the technical aspects of reducing emissions. Our collaboration with this group enables two-way learning, helping us both reach our climate objectives.
A good starting point for identifying strong partners is to find a non-government organization (NGO) that shares similar sustainability goals with your business. The U.N. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), for example, were established to inspire actors across all sectors to work toward the same targets, together. Using SDGs to identify a partner with similar climate goals can help business leaders streamline potential partners and create meaningful collaboration that helps speed innovation, and distinguish true climate action leaders.
Maximize Your Membership
Once business leaders have chosen the right partners, they should focus on making the most of these new relationships. Not only can climate and carbon-focused membership organizations help raise the visibility of your commitments to a new audience, but they can also connect your business with other like-minded, often progressive companies that you can learn from. Exposure to new ideas and perspectives will help better educate all parties involved, which in turn drives innovation and creativity around new climate initiatives.
In addition to working with NGO partners, businesses should work with academics, scientists and other thought leaders to learn and test new strategies for reaching climate goals. This can even later be used as the basis for educating key opinion leaders and policy makers. Partnering with a variety of players allows for an array of opportunities that help scale climate action across different industries and parts of business.
Don’t Forget Your Own Value Chain
Apart from working with external partners, collaboration with your own suppliers is also a necessary step to improve efficiencies in your business’ value chain. By aligning sustainability goals with suppliers, business leaders enable new carbon efficiencies within their organizations, externally for their customers, and beyond.
At Ingersoll Rand, we used to speak with our suppliers when a contract was about to end; but today, we’re interacting in different ways – working with strategic suppliers more often, discussing on an ongoing basis how we can improve our environmental impacts. After all, advancing carbon efficiencies in product lines lowers both your environmental impact and that of your suppliers, and customers.
Across all sectors, businesses are making bold climate commitments and collectively leading the way towards innovative technology development, widespread renewable energy adoption, meaningful corporate sustainability strategies, and strong employee engagement. However, businesses stand a better chance of effectively meeting environmental sustainability goals by working closely with external partners – and each other. Seeing the momentum of aggregate actions to curb the impacts of climate change is exciting and inspiring. And, the companies that collaborate to develop business strategies around global climate goals will emerge as leaders and will be among the first to succeed in achieving their set climate goals.
Scott Tew is the founder and leader of the Center for Energy Efficiency & Sustainability at Ingersoll Rand (CEES), which supports all of the company’s strategic brands – Club Car, Ingersoll Rand, Trane and Thermo King – and is responsible for forward-looking sustainability initiatives. Since the CEES was formed in 2010, Ingersoll Rand has successfully met or exceeded its long-term goals in energy use and waste reduction, while embedding sustainability in all parts of the product development process. Tew’s efforts have led to the development of world-class initiatives, including the creation of a green product portfolio, personalized employee engagement programs, and unique research on unmet needs in the green space. Tew manages all sustainability-related public transparency, advocacy, reporting and goal setting initiatives for the company.