Five questions with thought leader Donny Simmons of Trane Technologies

Donny Simmons is president of Commercial HVAC Americas – which goes to market as Trane® – for Trane Technologies. In this role, Donny oversees a broad portfolio of high efficiency, industry-leading HVAC systems, services, controls and energy reduction solutions.
We had the opportunity to ask Mr. Simmons about his the decarbonization work that Trane Technologies is embarking on and what he sees for the future of the built environment.

Donny Simmons, Trane Technologies

Q: We know that Trane Technologies has ambitions to reduce carbon both within your companies and across the supply chain. What brought about those goals?

It’s no secret that the building heating and cooling and refrigerated transport industries have been significant contributors to the climate crisis. 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.

This is the case for reducing emissions today, but looking ahead, global megatrends are only intensifying the situation. More people are moving into cities and the overall population is growing. Natural resource scarcity is pressuring food supplies, health and wellness, and general infrastructure. An aging workforce is shifting demographics. Skill requirements are reshaping the global workforce. And breakthrough technologies are changing the way we live and work.

At Trane Technologies, we believe one company can change an industry, and one industry can change the world. As a global climate innovator, we can be that change. We’re challenging what’s possible by thinking bigger, acting bolder and taking action to create a better future.

Sustainability is the foundation of our company, driving our innovative culture and our mindset for action. We have put a stake in the ground with bold climate commitments to accelerate progress. Our 2030 Sustainability Goals include:

  • The Gigaton Challenge, which is our commitment to eliminate one gigaton of carbon emissions from our customers’ footprints.
  • Leading by example through carbon neutral operations, zero waste to landfills, net positive water use and reduction of absolute energy consumption by 10%.
  • Creating opportunity for all, uplifting our culture and communities through an inclusive approach and a focus on education and career development.

Q: What do you think is the most impactful action that Trane Technologies is taking to create the change you seek?

A: The Gigaton Challenge is our pledge to reduce our customers’ carbon footprint by 1 gigaton by 2030. And we are well on our way – reducing 7.7M metric tons of CO2e in 2020. This is the largest customer climate commitment made by any B2B company. For comparison, 1 gigaton equates to 2% of the world’s annual emissions, or the annual emissions of Italy, France and the U.K. combined.

We are achieving this by:

  • Accelerating clean technologies that heat and cool buildings
  • Increasing energy efficiency in buildings, homes and transport environments
  • Reducing food loss in the global cold chain
  • Transitioning out of high-global warming potential (GWP) refrigerants by 2030, ahead of regulation

The target established by the Gigaton Challenge is validated by the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi), a partnership between CDP, the United Nations Global Compact, World Resources Institute (WRI) and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF). We are proud to be one of 615 companies worldwide with science-based targets and one of only 47 companies to have its targets verified by SBTi twice. Even fewer companies have had their targets verified twice at the highest ambition level – targets with commitments that support limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees.

Q: How have your customers and suppliers reacted to this work?

A: Many of our customers have carbon reduction targets and sustainability goals of their own. As a climate innovator, we see opportunity and responsibility to help them achieve these ambitions.

Sustainability is core to who we are – in how we operate and how we serve our customers. Because of that, establishing our 2030 sustainability commitments was an inclusive, collaborative process. We listened to key stakeholder groups like our suppliers, investors, customers, employees and NGOs to understand expectations of a leading company and ways to partner, particularly on critical global challenges like climate change.

When our 2030 commitments were announced, specifically the SBTi certification for the Gigaton Challenge, we received overwhelming support from our customers. They not only acknowledged the leadership position we were taking – they looked to us for guidance and key learnings. As a result, we established a Decarbonization Advisory Services group to begin to formalize this partnership with our customers. It’s good for us and good for them – our customers appreciate that they don’t have to choose between great products and better for the planet.

Q: Realistically, do you think we will be able to meet the dramatic reductions in carbon emissions from buildings that are being called for?

A:It is possible to meet climate targets within the built environment with commitments like the ones we’ve made at Trane Technologies. Setting bold targets and holding ourselves accountable naturally leads to innovation.

But we can’t do it alone. There is a pressing need for climate leadership, and the urgency grows with each passing day. It will take collaboration and action to get there. From industry to sector leaders within the built environment, local city governments to world leaders – we all must do our part.

Q: We’ve had a lot of challenges recently with the pandemic and disasters resulting from climate change. What are you hopeful about right now?

A: Our lives have been dramatically changed by the global pandemic, coupled with the disruption and destruction of increasing natural disasters resulting from climate change. What’s most critical in trying times is to persevere and realize the opportunity to evolve and grow.

I’m hopeful that we can look at our world’s challenges and see endless opportunity to transform, innovate and do things differently – do things better. For example, the global pandemic heightened sensitivity to the need for health and safety, and the overall quality of indoor environments. At Trane Technologies, we launched the Center for Healthy and Efficient Spaces to focus on ensuring that homes, buildings, public transport, and other spaces are using the latest innovations to become healthier and more sustainable than ever. We continue to respond to the urgent and increasing needs for solutions that reduce pathogens, mold, gases and other contaminants in the air we breathe.

I’m confident we will continue to challenge the status quo and see interesting partnerships and innovation spring forth with an aligned mission to boldly challenge what’s possible for a sustainable future.