Tuesday 25th October 2016                 Change text size:

Exclusive Interview: John Mandyck, United Technologies Corporation

John Mandyck

John Mandyck serves as Chief Sustainability Officer for United Technologies Corporation. A global leader in the aerospace, food refrigeration and commercial building industries, United Technologies provides high-technology systems and services that move the world forward with well-known global brands such as Carrier, Otis, Pratt & Whitney and UTC Aerospace Systems.

John chairs the Corporate Advisory Board of the World Green Building Council, and serves as chairman of the Board of Directors for the Urban Green Council in New York City. He is a member of the Corporate Council at the Harvard University Center for Health and the Global Environment. He is also on the adjunct faculty for the University of Connecticut School of Business. John is the co-author of the book Food Foolish, which explores the hidden connection between food waste, hunger and climate change.

Throughout his career, John has worked with governments, universities and organizations around the globe to accelerate environmental sustainability in an increasingly urbanizing world.

In 140 characters or less – what is sustainable urbanization?

Growing urban centers thrive and sustain themselves with green buildings, green aviation and avoidance of food waste to feed more people.

What was the driver for leading an initiative on sustainable urbanization– what gap did it fill? 

Our population is expected to grow to 9.6 billion people by 2050, with nearly 70 percent of those people living in cities. Bigger cities require more buildings for housing and workspace. Because buildings consume 40 percent of the world’s energy, the future of buildings and the future of sustainability go hand in hand. With 35 percent population growth expected in just 35 years, we not only have more people to feed, but those people will be moving farther from their food sources through urbanization. Since we already grow enough food to feed 10 billion people today, we have to avoid the one-third or more of food that is lost or wasted to feed more people while saving water and avoiding greenhouse gas emissions. People will also become more mobile as they move across greater distances for work and family, increasing the need to sustainably transport people. With the number of commercial airplanes expected to double just in the next 20 years, a focus on green aviation will allow urban centers to connect themselves in a more sustainable way. Sustainable urbanization requires that we address all of these issues in tandem.

Who will it primarily serve?

More than two-thirds of our population is poised to live in cities by 2050, increasing demands on the environment and natural resources – we’ll need more energy to power buildings and transport people and food in and out of urban centers. Cities have the opportunity to take a lead in implementing energy-efficiency measures and adopting technologies that can transform urban infrastructure while preserving natural resources.

What difference does the initiative want to make?

UTC is helping to accelerate green building adoption around the world. Green buildings represent nearly 50 percent of U.S. commercial construction, but in most emerging economies adoption is just starting. To accelerate that momentum, UTC created the Distinguished Sustainability Lecture Series to bring green building experts to emerging economies to share latest data and best practices. Since 2011, UTC has hosted 29 lecture events in 13 countries reaching more than 3,500 building professionals. UTC also believes that data drives decisions, so we are committed to partnering with leading research institutions to provide cutting-edge research for a more sustainable built environment. Our sponsorship of Harvard University’s COGfx research is a good example, which shows that improved indoor environmental quality found in green buildings doubled cognitive function in the landmark study.

In the area of green aviation, UTC invested $11B to produce the greenest, cleanest, quietist jet engine in its class. The Geared Turbofan jet engine made by Pratt & Whitney, a division of UTC, reduces fuel burn by 16 percent, particulate emissions by 50 percent and noise footprint by 75 percent. This technology represents the future of green aviation driven by the expected growth in airline travel, with 3.5 billion passengers flying in 2015, a number expected to grow 4.8 percent annually through 2033.

What are the challenges to making that difference?

Governments and individuals must be aware of the importance of sustainable urbanization and of the actions they take that help or hinder our progress. For example, food waste – a widespread and common issue – has a big impact on the environment. If measured as a country, the carbon footprint of all the food wasted or lost would rank third in the world for global greenhouse gas emissions. In the U.S., the equivalent of all the water used by California, Texas and Ohio is used every year just to grow the food that is wasted. Small steps can make a big difference. Since one-third of all food that is wasted happens at the consumer level, awareness campaigns are needed like the UK’s WRAP program that has reduced household food waste 20 percent in the last ten years. With two-thirds of all food waste happening at the production and distribution level (mostly in emerging economies), access to capital and incentives is needed to modernize infrastructure and technology. Those resources could be available if we address food waste as the climate issue it truly is.

Who’s helping you overcome those challenges?

I chair both the Corporate Advisory Board of the World Green Building Council (WGBC) and the Board of Directors for the Urban Green Building Council (UGBC) in New York City. These organizations help cities operate sustainably, connect them to knowledge and support, and connect nonprofits and government with the private sector to compel change. Specifically, the WGBC strengthens green building councils in member countries and fosters new councils by providing them with the tools and strategies they need. The UGBC collaborates with professionals, policymakers and people to take steps to ensure that the buildings in one of the biggest cities in the world are operating as sustainably as possible.

Are governments doing enough to support sustainable urbanization?

The United Nations has established sustainability goals for countries around the world, including targets for 2020, 2030 and beyond that will help to alleviate climate change, such as the sustainable management of forests, responsible food production and consumption, creation of sustainable, resilient and safe cities, and ocean conservation.

Here at home in the U.S., the government has really just begun talking about important elements of sustainable urbanization, such as food waste. The U.S. Department of Agriculture and Environmental Protection Administration recently set the country’s first food waste reduction goal – a 50 percent reduction by 2030. Big goals are needed like that to drive awareness and innovation. Senator Richard Blumenthal from Connecticut and Congresswoman Chellie Pingree of Maine recently introduced comprehensive legislation  to encourage people to take common sense steps to reduce food waste and harmonize the many food expiration date labels.

How can people – individuals and organisations – find out more about your initiative on sustainable urbanization?

We have a website, NaturalLeader.com, fully dedicated to UTC’s sustainability’s initiatives. This site outlines the important initiatives we’ve undertaken for our environment, our people and our communities, which include keeping food safe and fresh for consumption, building sustainable cities and more. My book Food Foolish also explores the relationship between food waste, climate change and hunger.

How do we know sustainable urbanization will work?

UTC is optimistic about sustainable urbanization because we know it works. UTC employs 200,000 people and owns or leases nearly 5,000 buildings around the world – making us our own virtual city, united by our commitment to reducing our environmental impact. And our ambitious goals have led to big results:

– We’ve tripled the size of our business in the last 20 years while reducing our greenhouse gas emissions by a third and water consumption by more than half.

– We’re on the path to reduce our carbon footprint by 80 percent by 2050, which supports the UN’s climate goals.


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