November 17, 2010

CEES Innovation Committee Introduces a New Way to Think About Sustainability

Jeff Hynds speaks directly to the issue. As director of innovation at the Center for Energy Efficiency and Sustainability (CEES), he explains that people across the enterprise must adopt a different mindset when they think about innovation and energy efficiency.

“One of the key things we want to do with the Innovation Committee is to get people to recognize that being green and sustainable is about more than just being energy efficient,” Hynds said. “Ingersoll Rand has had a long history of driving innovation to help customers manage their total lifecycle costs.” In other words, we were mainly focused on making products that helped customers lower their energy costs. There hasn’t been nearly as much focus on the bigger environmental footprint that our products leave on the planet over their entire lifecycle, from the extraction of raw materials for manufacturing to the end of the product’s useful life.

Dedicated to ensuring that our company enhances its role as a good environmental steward, the Innovation Committee will identify growth opportunities and develop guidelines to enable engineers and others to embed green and sustainable practices and policies into the product development pipeline. In addition to enhancing the company’s standing as a leader in improving energy efficiency, the new approach also will help reduce energy usage, greenhouse gas emissions and other potential pollutants upstream in the supply chain and downstream with channel partners and customers. As an added conservation measure, the committee will explore ways to include more recycled materials when products are made, and how to decrease the amount of materials that end up in a landfill when a product reaches the end of its life.

To reach its goals, the committee is closely examining the company’s innovation portfolio to gauge its current state of “greenness.” That rigorous inspection will help the committee to establish a baseline metric from which to measure the overall green and sustainability progress of products and services introduced in the future. While the committee will mine the extensive insights and talents of people within the company, it also will turn to universities, industry organizations, government entities, non-governmental organizations and other external experts to improve its green knowledge. How much the company reduces its carbon footprint on the planet will be one way to mark the success of this approach. But another equally important evaluator will be the amount of revenue and profit generated by green and sustainable products and services. “We need to recognize that sustainability is a huge growth opportunity for the company,” said Richard DeVaughn, chairman of the Innovation Committee. Growth, he adds, depends on understanding what green products and services our customers are willing to pay a premium for now and in the future. It also depends on our ability to build strong relationships with new suppliers and channel partners that have the green technology, sustainability expertise and market knowledge we need to deliver desirable products and services to our customers.

“We want people within the enterprise to begin to ask the question of how can we move beyond energy efficiency in developing green products and services,” DeVaughn said. “Research from the Center and the Innovation Committee will help our businesses to better understand customers’ needs and help us focus our energies in those areas where we can drive growth while being better stewards of the environment. We’re trying to change behaviors and drive home the principles of green and good environmental stewardship into the decision making process for every new product and service we introduce moving forward. When one of our businesses is trying to decide which new product to develop and what that product or service should do, we want them to think about how to integrate green and sustainability into every aspect of that product’s lifecycle.”

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