Empower kids to find their voice, but practice compromise — in compromise, there is a way to move forward.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Michael W. Lamach. Michael was elected chairman of the board of directors of Ingersoll Rand in June 2010, having previously been named chief executive officer in February 2010 and president and chief operating officer in February 2009. Mike joined Ingersoll Rand in February 2004 as president of the company’s Security Technologies sector and became president of Trane Commercial Systems after the acquisition of that business in 2008. Prior to joining Ingersoll Rand, Mike was group vice president and managing director for the European, Asian, South African and South American businesses of Johnson Controls’ Automotive Group. Before that, he served as vice president and general manager of the Controls Group, leading the company’s integrated facilities management business. During his 17-year tenure with Johnson Controls, Mike also held positions in sales management, marketing and new product development. Mike received a bachelor’s degree in engineering from Michigan State University and a master’s degree in business administration from Duke University. He is chair of the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) board of directors, and currently serving as a director for PPG Industries since 2015 and Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business board of visitors since 2013.
Thank you for joining us Michael! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Igrew up in Detroit, graduated with an engineering degree from the Michigan State University, and was considering job offers from each of the big three auto manufacturers. Then a company called Johnson came to town offering a salary and sales bonus. I was about to get married, so this bonus thing sounded interesting, and on a whim I interviewed for a job as a sales engineer. This was before the age of the internet and it wasn’t until I arrived in their lobby that I realized it was a heating and air conditioning company. And here I am now at Ingersoll Rand, still in the climate control business all these years later.
Looking back, I never would have imagined the number of jobs I’ve had, places I’ve lived, and friends I’ve met along the way — by being open, a little adventurous and saying yes to different opportunities.
What is the mission of your company? What problems are you aiming to solve?
Our company creates comfortable, sustainable and efficient environments for people around the world. Our Trane business heats, cools and automates homes and buildings, and our Thermo King business keeps transported food and perishables safe and fresh.
We are in a unique position to address major sustainability challenges such as climate change. Today, 15% of the world’s carbon emissions come from heating and cooling buildings, and as world urbanization accelerates, that figure could be as high as 25% by 2030. New technology we’ve developed can reduce up to 99% of the emissions that come from the refrigerants used to heat and cool a commercial building. At the same time, we are also innovating around system energy efficiency.
Transport refrigeration is another source of emissions, as well as food waste. We’re focused on creating a more energy-efficient cold chain that gets perishable food to the people who need it. We’re continually innovating to electrify the diesel engines used to cool trucks and trailers that transport perishable goods, and even using solar panels for power.
Can you tell our readers about the initiatives that you or your company are taking to address climate change or sustainability?
Sustainability has become inextricably tied to our business strategy and is our greater purpose — it is how we operate the company, engage employees, and serve customers and our communities.
Around the world, we are experiencing unprecedented social and environmental demands, which require leading companies like ours to take bigger and bolder actions. Earlier this year, we launched our 2030 sustainability commitments to meet the challenges of climate change while increasing access to air conditioning, perishable foods and medicines and improving the quality of life for people and communities where we operate and serve. There are three parts to our commitments:
- The Gigaton Challenge: We will reduce our customer carbon footprint by 1 gigaton of CO2 through our HVAC and transport refrigeration products and services. We believe this is the largest customer climate commitment made by any B2B company.
- Leading by Example: We are transforming our supply chain and operations to have a restorative impact on the environment. This includes achieving carbon neutral operations and giving back more water than used in water-stressed areas.
- Increasing Opportunity for all: We are strengthening economic mobility and bolstering the quality of life of our people. This includes achieving gender parity in leadership roles, a workforce reflective of its community populations, maintaining livable market-competitive wages and broadening community access to cooling comfort, housing and food.
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?
Most people want to work for a company with a purpose beyond financial results. The expectation that companies commit to environmental sustainability is growing, and that’s not going to change. Since our business strategy is linked to sustainability we are able to attract the best and brightest. And because of the great talent in the company, we’re able to be very innovative around putting systems in place for customers that are good for the environment and good for the bottom line. That’s the innovation magic inside our company — great people pushing the limits of what is possible so our customers don’t have to make a choice between being green and being fiscally responsible.
The youth led climate strikes of September 2019 showed an impressive degree of activism and initiative by young people on behalf of climate change. This was great, and there is still plenty that needs to be done. In your opinion what are 5 things parents should do to inspire the next generation to become engaged in sustainability and the environmental movement?
There are several things that come to mind on how parents can provide young children with a basis for understanding of what’s happening in the world relative to climate change, and lay the foundation for getting involved:
1. Do whatever you can to help your children learn to read — so they can read to learn.
2. Stress the importance of science, technology engineering and math (STEM) education.
3. Model sustainability at home — actions like recycling, reducing water usage, improving energy efficiency and volunteering in the community speak volumes and will make an impact.
4. Teach empathy — foster understanding of the plight and feelings of others.
5. Empower kids to find their voice, but practice compromise — in compromise, there is a way to move forward.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
My mom. She was a single parent raising three kids in Detroit and worked incredibly hard. She always juggled multiple jobs but was selfless and available to us when we needed her most. She instilled in me a strong work ethic and taught me to do things on my own and take control of my destiny.
When my dad died, I wrote my mom a note, comforting her through the lens of a six year old. It said, in red crayon, “I’ll buy you a Cadillac.” Two years ago, I bought her a Cadillac. All these years later, she had kept the note and showed it to me, saying, “You told me you would do this, and you did.”
You are a person of great influence and doing some great things for the world! If you could inspire a movement that would bring the greatest amount of good to the greatest amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
When I think about our innovative team and the work they’re doing on sustainability, I feel like we’ve already started a movement! Our Gigaton Challenge is a huge goal — and setting such an ambitious target requires us to challenge industry norms and be at our most creative every day.
To give you an idea of scale, one gigaton of emissions is equivalent to the annual emissions of Italy, France and the United Kingdom combined — that is about 2% of the world’s emissions.
And that’s just our company alone. Imagine the potential impact when other leading companies make bold commitments like the Gigaton Challenge. We could actually bend the curve of global warming. I am passionate about this movement, and the innovation it will inspire to bring about tremendous change that’s good for people and for the planet.
Do you have a favorite life lesson quote? Can you tell us how that was relevant to you in your own life?
Throughout life, I have learned how important it is to be kind and respectful to all. It’s free, easy to do, and pays back in incredible ways. When I was a kid and worked as a caddie, a word of thanks and a $5 tip made a huge difference to me. I’ve tried to pay that kindness forward by respecting people around me, especially those in service roles who may feel “unseen.” As a CEO, I encourage an inclusive culture by modeling kindness and respect through my own behaviors, and expect other leaders in our organization to do the same.
What is the best way for people to follow you on social media?
Thank you for all of these great insights!