“There is no finish line, only continuous improvement”: Responsible practices at McKinsey

Our 2023 ESG report details our aspirations, efforts, and progress toward delivering sustainable and inclusive growth—everything from creating jobs to cutting emissions.

It also discusses our responsible practices—the high professional and ethical standards we use to govern our firm. We understand that without a dedication to responsible practices, our commitment to sustainable and inclusive growth isn’t possible. That’s why, since 2018, we’ve spent nearly $1 billion on building, enhancing, and operating a globally integrated risk, ethics, and compliance framework and culture.

Daniel Trujillo, partner and chief ethics and compliance officer based in Austin, Texas, joined our firm in October of 2021 and has 32 years of experience in the field. Here, he describes our approach to operating responsibly and living our values.

A conceptual depiction of diverse group of people layered over a modern city background

2023 ESG Report

Accelerating sustainable and inclusive growth for all

Why did you choose to come to McKinsey?

McKinsey has such a global footprint, and an opportunity to have an impact at that scale is exciting—and rare. I knew I’d be able to make a difference here from my interview process. When our current Global Managing Partner Bob Sternfels mentioned to me how important it was for him to continue improving our approach to ethics, compliance, and risk management, I asked, “Is the firm willing to make sacrifices to continue that journey?” For example, it could require time, shifting focus, or money.

The conversations I had with firm leaders showed me that the organization prioritizes ethics and responsible practices. Often, companies have to slow down to get stronger before they can speed up. That’s been the case here, taking time to make changes and new investments—such as doubling our legal team and significantly increasing the size of our risk team.

What is your approach to strengthening ethics and compliance?

We organize our work into five building blocks that I think of as a wheel to be cycled through. The building blocks are: leadership (ensuring the appropriate resources, tone from the top/middle, accountability, and incentives), risk management (following proper enterprise risk management and annual risk assessments), governance (having clear and accessible rules based on values), training and education, and monitoring and response (to ensure we have a continuous improvement mindset).

All of these involve changing human behavior and further enhancing culture—that takes time and perseverance. We work our way through the cycle, learn lessons, and then repeat. After several times around the wheel, the culture has been strengthened.

A woman and two men, all colleagues in our London office.
McKinsey colleagues in our London office.
A woman and two men, all colleagues in our London office.

What is your implementation strategy?

This work has three pillars: people, process, and technology. We have amazing people at McKinsey, but I learned many years ago that having great people is not enough. More is needed: the right people have to work in tandem with the right processes and the right technology. We need clear, actionable guidelines paired with easy-to-use tools so our people have the seamless support they need.

What is an improvement you’ve observed that showed you were on the right track?

People come to us asking a simple question before starting client work: what could go wrong? After going through our education and training process, people question what work we should be doing, because not everything is right for us and our values. We want our colleagues to think not only about what we can do but also about what we should do. They’re proactively thinking about scenarios that could challenge how we uphold our values and strategizing if and how to proceed. That’s organizational growth.

We want our colleagues to think not only about what we can do but also about what we should do.

Daniel Trujillo, McKinsey chief ethics and compliance officer

When you have that level of maturity, of understanding the difference between the can and the should, then you’re better prepared to grow, because you’re leaner and smarter. That’s slowing down so you can speed up.

How are you thinking about the future of this work?

I’m inspired by the way our firm continues to learn, grow, and improve. Our firm truly understands that there is no finish line for this work, only continuous improvement, which makes me very proud to be here. So, we’re going to keep pressing stop and asking, “What are we missing here? What do we need to do to ensure that we are generating a positive impact?”

We aim to build the trust of our clients, colleagues, and society. And we’ll keep going around the “wheel” and earning that trust as we work towards the next hundred years of our firm.

Never miss a story

Stay updated about McKinsey news as it happens