Holly Paeper speaking at the Getting to Zero Forum 2024

Building a Movement

The technology exists today to decarbonize the built environment. How will we get to net-zero? Together.

This year, I had the opportunity to participate in the Getting to Zero Forum hosted by our partners, the New Buildings Institute, a mission-driven nonprofit organization working to advance scalable and practical approaches that equitably eliminate emissions from the built environment. Leaders from across the building sector—owners, academia, engineers, community organizations—came together to talk about building performance standards, embodied carbon and equitable cooling policy. It was inspiring to be with so many people committed to figuring out how to truly remove carbon from the built environment, and I shared how we are leading by example in our approach at Trane Technologies—through technology, people and partnerships.  

Technology: Relentlessly investing in sustainable innovation

Today, the urgent need for clean technologies in addressing climate change is increasingly clear. And so is our purpose to boldly challenge what’s possible for a sustainable world. For more than a decade, sustainability has been our strategy. 

We view climate change not as a problem to be managed, but as a disruptive platform for innovation. We are relentlessly investing in sustainable innovation to transform the way the world heats and cools buildings and transports refrigerated goods—dramatically reducing energy use and carbon emissions. 

In 2022 we became the first company in our industry—and one of the first companies in the world—to have our net-zero targets validated by the Science Based Targets initiative, following previous approval of our near-term 2030 targets. Our net-zero roadmap, introduced in 2023, outlines our decarbonization transition plan to achieve net-zero across our entire value chain—Scopes 1, 2 and 3—by 2050. You can learn more about it in this article from our leader of sustainability, Scott Tew.

We are reducing customers’ carbon emissions through electrification, heat pump technology, on-site renewables refrigerant transition management, connected controls and more.  

  • For example, we see a path to net-zero emission systems through on-site renewables and thermal batteries, such as thermal energy storage, which works like an HVAC “battery” for buildings. Ice or chilled water systems capture and recover thermal energy and then discharge it when the building needs it. 

  • A connected, holistic approach to buildings is also vital for driving positive environmental outcomes, and leveraging advanced, digital technology is key. Our connected solutions are providing our customers with real-time data and insights, helping improve their building performance, optimizing energy use, decreasing greenhouse gas emissions and minimizing costs.  

People: Our culture of impact

We believe investing in people is the most powerful way to innovate for a sustainable future. A diverse workforce is an essential catalyst for growth. We need people to help us develop the innovative technologies to decarbonize, and we need people to manufacture, install and service them, too. 

Cultivating a diverse and inclusive workforce requires investing in innovating ways to recruit, develop and retain talent for the future. 

  • For example, in 2023 we launched the Trane Technician Apprenticeship Program to address the skilled labor gap and build a diverse service technician workforce. Nationally registered through the U.S. Department of Labor, the TAP is a robust, nationwide, four-year paid program designed to recruit and train aspiring HVAC technicians, regardless of experience or education. For our most recent TAP cohort, we received more than 2,000 applicants—more than 12x the number of applicants for experienced technician openings.  

  • Also in 2023, we repositioned our policy of tuition reimbursement to tuition advancement, to help employees access opportunities for learning by reducing the upfront financial burden. 

We make real progress on our sustainability commitments because everyone contributes. We believe every job is a sustainability job, every role an opportunity for impact. 

Partnerships: Together, our impact grows by magnitudes

Our culture of impact expands beyond the company through our partnerships. From our customers to environmental organizations and community partners, we are leaders in an ecosystem that champions climate action and innovation. The Getting to Zero Forum was a wonderful reminder of the power of this community.  


What’s holding us back? Lack of clarity about what’s possible. And the ROI. We have heating and cooling systems today that are 70 percent more efficient than just seven years ago. The systems often pay for themselves within only two to three years due to greater energy efficiency and operational savings. 

What’s possible is a net-zero built environment. What will get us there is collaboration.  

The built environment is as complex an ecosystem as we will find in the natural world we are trying to protect. From HVAC to owners to engineers and operators, we work together every day to provide the environments for our communities to thrive: for children to learn, for patients to be treated, for businesses to serve customers. We can work together to do this too—to reach net-zero together. 

Charting the Path to Zero: How to Leverage Connection and Collaboration for Lasting Change

Okay, good afternoon. Great to see everybody here today. Thank you to New Buildings Institute for pulling all of us together today. Lucas talked about Louis the 14th, I'm gonna talk about orange soda. So, how many of you guys have tried Fanta orange soda? Okay, anybody know the story about this? So, in the 1930s right before World War II when the U.S. had sanctions on Germany, there was a German bottling Factory of Coca-Cola that couldn't get raw materials. So, they went to the lollipop manufacturers and got the leftover apple fibers, and they went to the cheese makers and got the leftover whey, and they brought that together to make soda.

So, why am I talking about orange soda here today? You know, I think I love this story because I think it's an early example of product circularity and it's the same innovation and scrappiness and growth mindset that that we at Trane Technologies have in terms of how we think about the climate. 

So, I'm Holly Paeper and I'm the President of our Commercial HVAC business at Trane. So let me tell you a little bit about our company. We are a global climate innovator and what that means is that we innovate heating and cooling specifically for efficient and sustainable solutions for homes, for buildings, and for industry. And we do this with a mission or noble cause around challenging what's possible for a more sustainable world. We've got two strategic brands that we go to market with: Trane and Thermo King. Anybody ever hear of those brands? So, we've got two brands that we go to market with and through these brands we bring these solutions alive. We are over a hundred-year-old company, and we consider ourselves a 100-plus year-old startup and that we bring a century of innovation to solve sustainability problems for a more sustainable future. And you know, we don't rely on the legacy of what we've done but instead transform, and innovate, and disrupt, and I'll talk a little bit more about that, for a more sustainable tomorrow. We've got 40,000 employees and probably about 2,000 of those right here in the Carolinas. We've got a headquarters location just 25 minutes north of here in Davidson. All of these employees are focused on sustainability. Our business is 100% about sustainability. What I mean by that is it permeates everything from our vision, from our strategy, our leadership team, our board of directors, our products, our factories, our people, and so it drives everything we do and is the common thread of how we run our business.

You know the urgency to address climate change is real, right? That's why we're all here. We're all passionate around this and our purpose as a company is very clear. We're thinking and acting on a grand scale because it's a grand type of problem to solve. You know, it encompasses our sustainability goals that I'll talk more about in terms of 2030, and what we're trying to do and how we think about that as a business as well as this ambitious vision that we have for a carbon neutral future. Our people and our culture are the way we do this. It's a secret ingredient to our success, and what we found is because we're 100% focused on sustainability, it is a passion project for our people. We have teams that are rallied around this and believing and empowered to truly change the world, and that same spirit is what allows us to innovate and bring products to market to go do something materially different in terms of the markets. 

You know, it may surprise you how thoroughly embedded sustainability is in an HVAC company or a company that that does the kind of stuff that we do. You know, it's no secret that that our industry has been a contributor to the global climate crisis. In fact, buildings account for 40% of the energy used in the U.S. 15% of the global greenhouse gas is attributed directly to the heating and cooling of buildings, and you add on top of that another 10% of greenhouse gas from food loss and food waste and our company has the ability to impact 25% of the greenhouse gasses in the world. While the industry has been part of the cause of the global climate crisis, it's also the same industry that's got the position and scale to change the world, to decarbonize our communities, and to bend the curve on climate change, and we take our role in that very seriously.

We've been innovating and advocating for climate change long before it was the norm. In fact, we have ambitious externally validated targets, and I'll share a few of those with you, that are raising the stakes on our industry, on our competition, and honestly what's possible. In 2014, that was our first round of climate commitments, and we achieved those two years early. Since then, we have bigger targets, more audacious targets, and that's the point. So now we're really looking at bold commitments for 2030 and beyond. We know that reversing the detrimental impacts of climate change is something that is going to demand transformative innovation, and our version of that is something that we call our Gigaton Challenge. So, this is a pledge to reduce our customer carbon emissions by a gigaton. So, to put it in context that's a billion metric tons. It's equivalent to the annual emissions of France, Italy, and the UK combined. So, we have this target by 2030 to do that.

I think as I mentioned before, right, a big target. That's exactly the point. We're trying to raise the stakes on what's possible. Both of the previous speakers talked about collaboration and partnership. The intent here is that we put this big goal out there and we want others to join us so, collectively, we can. One company can change an industry and that industry can change the world, and that's how we see this. And of course, we're leading by example in terms of our own facilities and making sure that that we're being as responsible as possible to reimagine our supply chain to reimagine our operations to make sure that we are also contributing in this way.

We view climate change not as a problem to be managed, but instead, a disruptive platform for innovation, and we're taking bold action to build a net zero future. In 2022, we became the first company in our industry and one of the first companies in the world to have our Net Zero 2050 carbon emission targets validated by the Science-Based Target Initiative, so we're really excited about that. It's really about getting to Net Zero by 2050 across scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions. What's been really exciting about what we've done here is created a road map and you can see an example of that what that looks like here in terms of how we get there and the validation of these targets by Science-Based Target Initiative has really helped fuel us and give us more evidence that we're on the right track here. I'm excited to share more about these efforts as we have the discussion here today and certainly look forward to the ideas and the action that comes out of the Forum this week thank you, thank you each so much. 

Thought Leaders

Dave Regnery

Chair and CEO, Trane Technologies

Latest Article

Firing on All Cylinders
Scott Tew

Vice President, Sustainability and Managing Director, Center for Energy Efficiency and Sustainability, Trane Technologies

Carrie Ruddy

Senior Vice President and Chief Communications and Marketing Officer

Mairéad Magner

Senior Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer, Trane Technologies

Donny Simmons

Group President, Americas, Trane Technologies

Deidra Parrish Williams

Global Corporate Citizenship Leader, Trane Technologies

Jose La Loggia

Jose La Loggia, Group President, EMEA

Holly Paeper

President, Commercial HVAC Americas, Trane Technologies

Latest Article

Building a Movement
Paul Camuti

Executive Vice President and Chief Technology and Sustainability Officer, Trane Technologies

Steve Hagood

Senior Vice President and Chief Information Officer, Trane Technologies

Chris Kuehn

Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer, Trane Technologies