December 13, 2022 | Caitlin M. Caplinger

IMT partners with organizations of all shapes and sizes in its quest to transform the places where we collectively live, work, and play into restorative, healthy, resilient, and sustainable spaces. Our goal is to collectively drive greater demand for better buildings and to co-create and deploy the solutions that fulfill that demand.

Who are you and what do you do?

Katie McGinty: I’m Chief Sustainability Officer for Johnson Controls, and wear a couple other hats. I also am head of global government relations and president of our foundation. And most of those missions come together in a great way that really is right at the heart and soul of who Johnson Controls is. We’re a 140 years young sustainable buildings technology company. So, if it’s an operating system, control system, digital system in and around a building, that’s where Johnson Controls lives, works, breathes. We help to drive super performance so that we are excelling in the functions of that building even while we are dramatically cutting the greenhouse gas emissions associated with it. In my role with government relations and sustainability, it really comes together nicely because we’re trying to drive policies that also will enable those technologies that can help us to achieve those double ends of driving excellence in operations while driving down climate change and greenhouse gases.

What are some of those technologies and climate solutions that JCI utilizes or is excited about?

McGinty: This is a great time in terms of the dynamism in thinking about technologies that can help us tackle climate change broadly. But buildings were always the piece of the infrastructure equation that was forgotten or left behind. And as we thought about climate change, we thought about critical things like solar or wind or electric vehicles. Here’s what we are now realizing: buildings make up almost 40% of global greenhouse gas emissions. There is no decarbonizing the climate without decarbonizing those buildings. The good news is that we also know the formula to get that job done — focus on energy efficiency, electrification, and digitalization. Tools like behind-the-meter renewables, heat pumps, and digital platforms are the real game changers in the building space. They enable us to cut energy bills, slash carbon, and make the building come alive as a strategic asset and a climate-friendly asset as well.

What is one of the biggest challenges facing your company or the industry at large when it comes to creating more resilient and high performing buildings?

McGinty: One is just awareness. The building itself has not been thought about as a strategic asset. As we realize the role that buildings play in climate change, for example, we have digital platforms like Open Blue, that enable us to have capabilities in that building that go right to the sweet spot of the organization’s strategy. Buildings have become much more on the forefront of senior leadership’s attention in organizations.  Once we get started in a conversation that’s about dialing down that energy bill and emissions, we’re finding that the very same suite of sensors and capabilities are also unleashing the potential of that building to support and drive an organization’s mission. So with hospitals, those temperature and humidity sensors help us to dial way back on the HVAC system because we know the room is already cool. Now those systems are even becoming part of the medical team and scrubbing out viral particles in the air so you’re driving down hospital acquired infections and enabling people to get well more quickly. With stadiums there might be occupancy sensors that help us to modulate the HVAC, but then the stadium absolutely delights the fans because those sensors are also sending a signal that, “Hey, if you want to slice a pizza or cold beer, there’s no line over at Gate 13.”

The second thing that I think has always been a challenge, but that smart policy is helping to address, is the disconnect there can be between the builder, the owner, and the occupant. Do their incentives all align? And I think it’s fair to say that there has been a challenge with misalignment. But when you have innovative tools like building performance standards, it’s just putting everybody on a level playing field. We are saying, across the board, that we are going to have a certain set of expectations with respect to the energy efficiency per square foot of that building. Regardless of whether you’re coming at the building as a tenant, as an owner, as a builder, that’s just the level playing field, and I think that’s going to help accelerate progress and really cut through the stalemate.

Are there creative ways that you are managing your supply chain?

McGinty: First, we’re trying to simplify our own material, product, and technology needs on the front end. Can we use less? Can we use models that are more uniform so there is less customization? This focus on uniform application opens up more opportunity for reducing, reusing, and remanufacturing in our materials and consumption. Second, we have always asked our suppliers to inform us about their sustainability practices, but we’ve taken that up to the next level. We’ve partnered with EcoVadis now, a gold standard in sustainable supply chains. Our leading suppliers are required to fill out the EcoVadis survey. We insist that those suppliers achieve a passing score and provide support for our suppliers in terms of best practices. And we have stood up a supplier sustainability council to enable more of our suppliers to understand and practice sustainability best practices. The game-changer I am excited about is that this year JCI is ranking the sustainability score on equal footing with core considerations like price, quality, and timeliness of delivery. Sustainability counts just as much as those other key considerations and is now something that every supplier will need to pay very close attention to as they desire to work with Johnson Controls.

How do you think business, government, and communities can work together to promote climate progress?

McGinty: Companies are stepping up and energizing their teams to go get the answers to climate change. They’re making robust commitments in terms of wanting to dial down their own greenhouse gas emissions. At Johnson Controls, our engineering resources are totally switched on. We’re dedicating at least 75% of all of our new product research and development towards climate and sustainability solving technologies. Where government comes in is enabling all of that to go to scale. Jurisdictions put the policy signals in place so that we can shift from just one or two projects that prove the point, to economy-wide approaches that enable us to accelerate progress, both in tackling climate and reducing people’s energy bills.

IMT’s corporate engagement program provides financial support to IMT to serve as an ideation lab for next-generation public policies and business practices while further deploying IMT’s expertise in the building performance landscape to partners. IMT’s corporate supporters receive exclusive benefits including regular analysis on the building performance landscape and access to IMT’s market-leading expertise.

Program Area(s):

Policy , Real Estate

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