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Proving the economic value of sustainability

Danielle has not taken the traditional path to her role as engagement manager in McKinsey’s Sustainability practice—but she feels every step has prepared her to help solve the world’s most urgent environmental problems.

I majored in economics and spent the first six years of my career on Wall Street. I was a trader at Goldman Sachs, working in the middle of the trading floor. It was a very exciting role, but I felt something was missing. At the end of the day, I wanted the chance to develop and drive the strategies I’d watch others execute – to generate the value I had ultimately been trading.

At the same time, I had become acutely aware of the power corporations had, by virtue of their size and influence, to do good in the world. So, when I went to pursue my MBA, I decided to focus on sustainable development and corporate social responsibility with a concentration in sustainable finance.

My goal was to bring the worlds of finance and sustainability together—and figure out how to create economic value while fighting climate change.

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An untraditional path through the firm

I joined McKinsey for the first time in 2013 as an associate in the corporate finance practice in New York. I left the firm in 2015 to join a start-up founded by two of my business school colleagues and later went on to launch my own company. I remained close with McKinsey, working as an external advisor and eventually got involved in learning and development here at the firm. I helped spearhead a number of learning programs, and at the end of 2019, the Sustainability practice asked me to develop McKinsey’s first sustainability learning program.

I drafted a plan for a content management platform and spent much of 2020 developing our internal website, which houses learning content, reports, documents, and tools, and showcases the practice’s capabilities. It offers video-based learning to help colleagues become fluent in sustainability topics and understand how we help clients drive impact in the world.

After that, I became more and more involved in scaling our sustainability practice and was invited to come back full-time as an engagement manager a little over a year ago.  Having moved to Europe in the meantime, I decided to rejoin the firm in the Brussels office. I loved my practice development role, but I am excited to be working with clients. It’s a little bit like going from being a coach to being back in the game, and I am energized by collaborating directly with my clients to overcome their toughest challenges.

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Paving the way for EVs in Europe

McKinsey is empowering me to work at the intersection of finance and sustainability.

Right now, I am working with a public/private partnership to develop a roadmap for the deployment of electric vehicle (EV) infrastructure throughout Europe, including charging for battery-electric vehicles and hydrogen refueling for fuel cell-powered vehicles. This is super interesting as it’s the first time we’ve worked on a complementary ecosystem view incorporating both technologies.

We’re looking at it from the overall cost perspective. But we’re also working with private stakeholders, government officials, and academics to understand what the energy, labor, and raw materials requirements will be and how to coordinate across member states.

This work could have a huge impact for the entire continent.

Supporting McKinsey’s thought leadership

In late January, we published a global report on the net zero transition, which explores the nature and magnitude of the economic shifts required to reach net-zero emissions by 2050.  We looked at one example pathway to net zero to develop a view on relevant costs, demand shifts, capital allocation, and labor requirements.

The global economic transformation would be significant and universal. We found from now until 2050, the transition would require total annual investment of $9.2 trillion and would affect all countries and all sectors of the economy, directly or indirectly. Yet, the transformation would be rich in opportunities for products and processes that drive decarbonization.

Our hope is this research will be a catalyst for the systemic changes needed to make the net-zero transition a reality. It was amazing to work with the visionary and brilliant McKinsey partners and colleagues on this research. I felt lucky to have a seat at the table with them.

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What I love about my work at McKinsey

I get to wake up every day and try to solve the problems I think are most important to humankind. If there’s a problem to fix, it’s climate change. That’s how I want to spend my days.

More about me

I came to Europe five-and-a-half years ago for three months to train as a chef, and I never left. I credit McKinsey for giving me the freedom to explore my passion. I’m still passionate about food, and specifically, how we can feed ourselves in more sustainable ways and ensure security and resilience in our agricultural supply chains.

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