Materials are the next frontier of decarbonization

Representing approximately 20 percent of global GHG emissions, materials are a critical step on the path to decarbonization. Today, companies are rapidly ramping up climate commitments, and in turn, this raises the need and ambition to source sustainable materials.

The production capacity for low-emissions materials is set to fall short of future demand in the next 30 years. To meet ambitious greenhouse gas reduction targets and stay on course to achieve net-zero emissions, we must decarbonize materials-derived emissions at unprecedented scale and speed, which requires collaboration across the value chain from production and sourcing to use and implementation.

McKinsey’s Sustainable Materials Hub empowers organizations to solve the sustainable materials challenge and achieve carbon reduction commitments through the production and sourcing of low-carbon materials. We bring together experts at every step of the value chain and offer in-depth insights on the supply, demand, and low-carbon premiums across a wide range of commodities.


global experts across the value chain

including miners, smelters, processers, distributors, end purchasers, equipment manufacturers, and industrial companies


industry practices

including Metals & Mining, Chemicals, Paper, Forest Products & Packaging, Automotive & Assembly, Industrials & Electronics, and Aerospace & Defense


clients supported

on sustainable materials in the last three years

What we do

We focus on sustainable materials with the highest potential to close the carbon emissions gap while supporting our clients in the design of value-creating strategies to produce, commercialize, and source low-carbon and circular materials, including:

Emissions identification and transparency

We create transparency on materials-related greenhouse gas emissions baselines, broken out at the asset and product level: for producers, by site, step in the production process and equipment, and for purchasers, by supplier, production route, geography, and asset.

Operational decarbonization

We define a realistic materials-related decarbonization aspiration with a comprehensive library of abatement levers across different materials and value chains, develop the roadmap necessary to achieve those goals, and support the implementation of identified levers.

Premium capture

We segment material category offerings by carbon and circularity levels and support clients in capturing the associated green premium.

Sourcing and circularity strategies

We develop scope 3 reduction pathways, via sourcing and circularity strategies for clients along the value chain, informed by a combination of our unique tools and expertise.

Materials covered

  • Steel
  • Aluminum
  • Plastics
  • Copper
  • Battery materials (e.g., lithium, nickel)
  • Cement and building materials
  • Glass
  • Other

Our Approach

Fact-based perspectives

We provide leading global insights addressing the outlook of sustainable materials demand and supply, price premiums, producer response, and customer implications

Our distinctive tools

We support producers on decarbonization journeys with distinctive tools such as Catalyst Zero, MineSpans, MetalSpans, and MineLens, asset-level detailed scope-3 emission curves across several value chains, extensive decarbonization lever libraries and marginal abatement curves for assets and products, using our asset decarbonization assessment tool and Zero Carbon Product capabilities, among others.

Strategic value creation

Following a dual mission approach analyzing cost and carbon, we enable green business building, sustainable investment strategy, and green commercial excellence from design to execution

Coverage across the value chain

We leverage expert perspectives, assets, and proprietary tools across key sustainable materials at each step of the value chain and across sectors

Our ecosystem

We have worked to create a vibrant ecosystem of industry associations and partnerships focused on mastering the sustainable materials challenge with groups such as the Mission Possible Partnership, Vivid Economics, Materials Economics, and others

Featured experts

Marcelo Azevedo

Solution Associate Partner, London

Marcelo is one of the leaders of McKinsey’s battery raw materials team, as well as McKinsey’s MineSpans tool. He works closely with mining, metals, and materials end-customers clients on their sustainability transformation journeys, including decarbonizing their own materials production or sourcing sustainable materials.

Patricia Bingoto

Senior Knowledge Expert, Zurich

Patricia has spent more than 18 years in the metals and mining and automotive sectors. Her deep expertise in aluminum markets, from mine to metal, allows her to support producers and consumers in understanding their sources of carbon emissions and taking action to reduce their footprints.

Anna-Christina Fredershausen

Associate Partner, Frankfurt

Anna-Christina advises clients on operations and sales topics, including decarbonization and green business building, with a specific focus on the industrial, semiconductor, and automotive sectors.

Christian Hoffmann

Associate Partner, Dusseldorf

Christian co-leads McKinsey’s green steel team to help key steel companies and customers master their decarbonization journey. He works closely with steel and metals clients to realize their sustainability transformation and enable green growth.

Yvonne Huemer

Associate Partner, Zurich

Yvonne is focused on the reduction of scope 3 emissions by design and sourcing strategies of green materials. She brings deep knowledge in product development, manufacturing, and transformational improvement programs.

Featured insights


Making everyday products greener

– Transition to greener products may be challenging, but it’s feasible. However, achieving scale will be a significant hurdle in a world where demand for green materials will soon outstrip supply if targets and commitments are taken seriously.

Capturing the green-premium value from sustainable materials

– Materials are the next net-zero frontier. To seize the opportunity, green-materials producers and buyers must act now.

The new imperative for green commodities

– The energy and materials transition is reshaping the strategic toolbox of commodity producers. Seven actions can help them master the transition.

The cement sector’s net-zero transition: Higher costs and demand shifts

– For cement companies and their value-chain partners, opportunities for value creation could arise as customers look for low-emissions building materials.

The steel sector’s net-zero transition: Pioneering new production methods

– Steel companies quick to decarbonize their operations may be better placed to capture new market opportunities in the long-term.

Safeguarding green steel in Europe: Facing the natural-gas challenge

– European steelmakers need to reconsider their decarbonization strategies because of rising natural-gas and electricity prices, as well as potential limitations on the natural-gas supply.

Mastering the dual mission: Carbon and cost savings

– OEMs will need to move quickly to achieve their “dual-saving” ambition of reducing both total product emissions and costs. A limited supply of low-carbon materials adds pressure to act now.

Net-zero steel in building and construction: The way forward

– Rising demand for greener approaches creates an imperative for the industry to seize the moment, adopt new mindsets, and set standards for the transition to a greener future.
Article - McKinsey Quarterly

Playing offense to create value in the net-zero transition

– Decarbonization will reshape the economy, opening new markets and imperiling others. Now is the moment for companies to spot green growth opportunities and move boldly to take advantage.

It’s not easy buying green: How to win at sustainable sourcing

– Green steel, recycled plastic, and other materials with low emissions intensity are already scarce—and will get even harder to find. Here’s how smart companies are preparing for the squeeze.

The raw-materials challenge: How the metals and mining sector will be at the core of enabling the energy transition

– As the world gears up for net zero, demand for raw materials is set to soar. The energy transition presents unique challenges for metals and mining companies, which will need to innovate and rebuild their growth agenda.

Buying into a more sustainable value chain

– Two-thirds of the average company’s environment, social, and governance footprint lies with suppliers. Procurement leaders who take bold action can make a decisive difference in sustainability.

The DRI dilemma: Could raw material shortages hinder the steel industry’s green transition?

– Raw-material shortages have the potential to disrupt the market for direct reduced iron, but industry participants are already planning to implement new strategies.

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Learn how we help our clients in the chemical industry meet evolving challenges and capture new opportunities.

Paper, Forest Products & Packaging

Learn how we help our clients refine strategies and business models to improve products, operations, and organizational effectiveness.

Automotive & Assembly

Learn how we help automotive manufacturers, suppliers and distributors, machinery OEMs, and industrial conglomerates with their digital, strategy, organization, and operational challenges.

Industrials & Electronics

Learn how we help our industrials and electronics clients leverage new technologies, pursue growth, and improve their operations.

Aerospace & Defense

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Engineering, Construction & Building Materials

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Connect with the Sustainable Materials Hub team