McKinsey & Company launches McKinsey Sustainability unit

26 May 2021 3 min. read
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Strategy firm McKinsey & Company last month launched a sustainability platform to help clients cut carbon emissions and achieve net-zero goals.

The firm has already added 1,000 of its employees to the new platform, which will advise clients across sectors on sustainability, climate, energy transition, and environmental, social, and governance (ESG) initiatives.

McKinsey Sustainability will offer services and solutions to help organizations attain net-zero carbon emissions, including: strategies to limit exposure to climate risk and seize green opportunities; decarbonizing operations; and building new sustainable businesses.

“This launch builds on our nearly 100-year history and our mission to help our clients make distinctive, lasting, and substantial improvements in their performance in several ways: by developing distinctive insights; convening leaders across the private, public, and social sector; and acting as a responsible citizen of the world,” stated a blog post on the firm's website.

McKinsey & Company launches McKinsey Sustainability unit

The world’s preeminent strategy consultancy has been a lightning rod for controversy in recent years, and a poster child for corporate amorality in the coverage of various publications. Recent black eyes include a nearly $600-million settlement with US state governments over the firm's role in advising Purdue Pharma on boosting sales of the Oxycontin painkiller, and more than $100 million paid to the South African government over the firm’s involvement in a massive government contracting corruption scandal.

McKinsey also in 2018 attracted a large degree of negative media attention for its work with Saudi Arabia, including the identification of several dissident voices on social media who were subsequently targeted for arrest and intimidation. McKinsey said it was “horrified” its report on social media influencers would be used by the Saudi government to crack down on critics.

Though the firm’s efforts to brand itself as a shining corporate citizen can be a more difficult prospect than most, McKinsey has pushed an aggressive climate change-related program. The firm has pledged to reach net-zero carbon emissions in its operations by 2030, and routinely puts out leading research on climate and energy transition. McKinsey is also a sustainability knowledge partner to various institutions and associations, including the World Economic Forum and the Institute of International Finance.

“Our aim is to be the largest private sector catalyst for decarbonization,” said McKinsey’s outgoing managing partner Kevin Sneader, who will be succeeded by Bob Sternfels on July 1.

The firm already performed sustainability strategy work prior to the launch of its new platform, including projects such as advisory work on a new “green” steel factory in Europe, helping a client scale up hydrogen capabilities, and assessing asset exposure to physical climate risk.

McKinsey said it is also establishing a "McKinsey Academy for Sustainability" to train boards, executives, and its workers on climate change, as well as a several technology centers to drive innovation on batteries, hydrogen, carbon capture, water, and plastics.