Trane Technologies is using an employee-powered innovation programme to tackle social and environmental issues around the world.
The company, a global provider of climate solutions, has launched Operation Possible, an innovation program which harnesses the diverse experiences and spirit of the company’s employees to confront and make progress on its sustainability impact.
Through a combination of crowd-sourcing ideas and crowd-solving issues most important to its employees, the organisation has tied the innovation and collaborative capacity of its people to their 2030 Sustainability Commitments and the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals in an accelerated way.
“Operation Possible is about taking a bold new step – one where we tackle humanity’s most persistent and senseless problems,” said Paul Camuti, the company’s executive vice president and chief technology and sustainability officer.
“We wanted to tackle these problems by harnessing the collective energy and brainpower of our Trane Technologies community to identify and solve these challenges and expand our innovation portfolio of solutions for social and environmental good,” he added.
The initiative began with a four-month call on employees to submit what global issues they wanted to confront, via an online platform where other members could view, comment, and vote on their favourite ideas.
In its first call, Operation Possible garnered over 400 submissions and more than 12,000 votes, from employees across 17 countries, with food loss and hunger being voted as the first problem to tackle.
“Our people understand that the sustainability of our planet depends on the health of the people who live on it, so we weren’t surprised that so many of our employees selected food insecurity as the first problem to be addressed,” said Camuti, adding that the idea “felt to many as a natural starting point.”
Both Trane and Thermo King, the company’s two strategic brands, play important roles in the processing, storage and transportation of food, so the company was ideally placed to start with identifying innovative ways to reduce food loss.
Virtual Jam Sessions were attended by hundreds of employees all over the organisation to brainstorm around the most promising innovation concepts that were submitted on the crowdsourcing platform.
“The programme has made it easy to get involved and connect with people from all over our company in different roles and geographies,” said Brittni Robinson, a member of Trane Technologies’ legal team.
“During the Jam Sessions, the energy, the passion and the sense of community that I felt was like nothing I had ever felt before – I felt like it was a safe space to share my ideas, even though there were engineers in the room,” she added.
Initial activities led to a number of innovation projects immediately being funded, including a novel mobile technology to help fresh produce street vendors in low-income communities prevent food spoilage – within months from the jam sessions, several prototypes were being tested in Indian municipalities.
The success of the initiative is partly attributed to the inspiring impact-storytelling content which has motivated employees to get involved and take action. To produce this content, Trane Technologies has partnered with Not Impossible Labs, a content studio and technology incubator that has spent the last decade developing and prototyping social impact innovation via crowd-solving processes.
“It has been exciting to see how Operation Possible has become yet another innovation engine within Trane Technologies that creates value in a lot of ways, from employee engagement to technological concepts and far beyond,” said Joe Babarsky, director of strategy & partnerships at Not Impossible Labs, adding that “when storytelling is part of your workflows, collaborative, deeply human, and purposeful ways of operating come that much more naturally.”
“Over the course of the first year of Operation Possible we have felt a palpable and growing sense of interest, energy, excitement, and motivation from employees and external partners, and while lots of companies position themselves as purpose-driven, you really feel that commitment and self-identity at Trane Technologies.”