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“Determine where you can be most impactful” With Penny Bauder & Karin De Bondt

My advice is to start with what you are most passionate about because I truly believe it is passion that drives us. Once you have discovered what excites you, seek to understand the issues so that you can determine where you can be most impactful. For instance, at Thermo King, we recognized that we had […]

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My advice is to start with what you are most passionate about because I truly believe it is passion that drives us. Once you have discovered what excites you, seek to understand the issues so that you can determine where you can be most impactful. For instance, at Thermo King, we recognized that we had an opportunity to leverage our technology, our expertise and our network of dealers to help support hunger relief organizations and get fresh, nutritious food to people in need. All of this, coupled with our commitment to innovation, uniquely positioned us to help in this space. Everyone has something unique to offer — your voice, experience, time, talent, or resources. What’s key is taking that first step; even the smallest of steps can lead to significant change!


As part of my series about “individuals and organizations making an important social impact,” I had the pleasure of interviewing Karin De Bondt.

Karin De Bondt is the president of the Thermo King Americas business for Trane Technologies plc. In this role, she is responsible for the management, operations, innovation and financial performance of the strategic business unit.

Since joining the company in 2013, Karin has successfully led her teams in developing and executing strategies that deliver business results, despite some of the most challenging and uncertain market conditions. Also during her tenure, Karin has demonstrated a successful and consistent record of building strong teams and capabilities with a customer-focused approach, which has been core to her success. Thermo King is the global leader in transport refrigeration with a focus on improving quality of life through innovative and sustainable solutions that help transport temperature-critical products to people around the world safely and efficiently.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us about your personal background?

After earning my master’s degree in economics from the Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium, I started my career at DHL where I held roles of increasing responsibility in finance, marketing and sales while working in several different countries including The Netherlands, Italy and Belgium. I joined the Thermo King team in 2013 where I first led the EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa) business, then Latin America and most recently, the Americas.

Having the opportunity to live in multiple countries and cities around the world has nurtured my passion to learn about different cultures and learn new languages — I currently speak four different languages.

Thermo King is helping to make a big difference for our planet. Can you tell us a bit about what you and your organization are trying to change in our world today?

As the company behind the first-ever transport refrigeration unit, Thermo King is committed to innovating solutions that reduce the impact of our products on the environment and meet the changing needs of society.

By 2030, it is estimated that 60 percent of the population, or 5 billion people, will be living in cities and the demand for food production will increase by 30–35 percent. If current food production and transport policies and practices remain unchanged, the carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) emissions could increase anywhere between 15–60 percent annually. Through the electrification of our product portfolio, the adoption of low global warming potential (GWP) refrigerants and several other key initiatives, Thermo King will reduce the CO2e emissions of our products by 4.2 million metric tons by the end of 2020; and we’re building out a roadmap for 2030.

Further, as the industry leaders in transport refrigeration, we recognize that our technology, expertise and expansive global dealer network puts us in a unique position to address hunger and food waste in our communities.

In 2018, Thermo King established a strategic partnership with Feeding America and created the We Move Food™ hunger relief program, designed to support Feeding America’s more than 200+ food banks and 60,000 pantries across the United States. Product discounts and grants enable food banks to receive and collect more perishable donations — fresh food that otherwise could have been wasted — to feed even more people in their communities. To date, we have helped to deliver nearly 7 million meals to those in need.

Can you tell us the backstory to how the We Move Food program got started, and the inspiration behind it?

More than 80 years ago, Thermo King drove beyond the boundaries of innovation to pioneer transport refrigeration. Our technology ultimately enabled our access to fresh nutritious food any time of the year despite our proximity to farms or other agricultural sources.

Today, an estimated one-third of all food produced globally is lost or goes to waste, yet more than 820 million people — approximately one out of every nine people in the world — are hungry. Those numbers suggest that the answer to the problem isn’t necessarily producing more food. Thermo King changed the world once before, why not again?

Hunger relief and reducing greenhouse gas emissions — how do the two tie together?

We look at sustainability a few different ways including environmental sustainability and social sustainability. There’s no one solution to end hunger, eliminate food waste or stop the release of greenhouse gases associated with the food supply chain. However, Thermo King is well positioned to make a meaningful impact through our product innovation and our hunger relief efforts.

For example, our products help to reduce the carbon footprint created by transport refrigeration. They also are reliable so loads of fresh food make it safely to their destination reducing food waste. The more fresh food that makes it into the communities the more that is available to hunger relief organizations, like our partners at Feeding America who rely on food donations.

Many people want to make an impact and help our planet but they simply don’t know where to start. What would your advice be to others who want to make a difference?

My advice is to start with what you are most passionate about because I truly believe it is passion that drives us. Once you have discovered what excites you, seek to understand the issues so that you can determine where you can be most impactful. For instance, at Thermo King, we recognized that we had an opportunity to leverage our technology, our expertise and our network of dealers to help support hunger relief organizations and get fresh, nutritious food to people in need. All of this, coupled with our commitment to innovation, uniquely positioned us to help in this space. Everyone has something unique to offer — your voice, experience, time, talent, or resources. What’s key is taking that first step; even the smallest of steps can lead to significant change!

What’s been one of your more interesting experiences since you began leading your organization?

I’m naturally a curious person and I ask a lot of questions so since becoming president of Thermo King Americas, every day has been interesting. Taking my collective experience, there is one thing that recently struck me — and it has to do with culture. Throughout my career, I have been very fortunate to experience cultures from around the world. What I have realized is that there are more similarities than there are differences — especially when it comes to passionate people coming together to try to resolve issues, and these can be social, business or customer issues.

How would you articulate how a business can become more profitable by being more sustainable and more environmentally conscious? Can you share a story or example?

At Trane Technologies and Thermo King, sustainability is core to our strategy. By embedding environmentally responsible principles into product design and development, we’re able to really lean into innovation and deliver sustainable solutions to our customers. As a result, not only do our products help our customers meet their own sustainability goals, but they also help them to stay ahead of environmental regulation. For example, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) regulates emissions, and they are moving quickly to adopt a regulation to ensure that 100 percent of the state’s light, medium and heavy trucks and buses are operating with battery or fuel cell-electric engines by 2045. Transport refrigeration units are also being targeted to reduce engine emissions. Thermo King customers can confidently purchase our refrigeration products knowing they will maintain regulatory compliance. Driving value for our customers increases their loyalty and ensures our business remains strong.

What are your “things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why?

  • Try different things — be willing to try something new and challenge yourself.
  • Keep on learning — growth is the key to success.
  • You grow in the tough times — change is uncomfortable, but that’s where growth happens.
  • Be authentic — you’ll do your best work if you remain true to yourself.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

I always come back to “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” For me, it’s a reminder that building something takes passion, time and effort. You’ll probably make mistakes, and you’ll need to be flexible and adjust to meet those challenges head-on. If you can do all of that, you can build something beautiful — but it will never seem finished. There are always ways to improve and keep building.

How can our readers follow you online?

The best way to keep in touch with what we are doing is to follow us on FacebookTwitter and LinkedIN.

This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!

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