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Helga Vanthournout

Senior Knowledge Expert, Geneva
Advises private, public, and not-for-profit clients on their circular-economy agenda—from design and supply-chain management to strategy and transformational change—and works with clients as they consider sustainability-related issues, including waste treatment and carbon mitigation

About Helga

Helga has worked around the world with clients in the materials, engineering, and consumer sectors to identify how they can grow and innovate by reducing their lifetime material intensity. This approach, known broadly as the “circular economy,” includes business-model and product design, and reconfigured reverse logistics.

In waste management, a particular expertise, Helga has helped regional, state, and city governments to develop new management strategies, evaluate privatization options, and craft implementation plans. She has also worked with waste operators and equipment providers in Asia, Europe, Latin America, and North America, to assess recycling and waste-to-energy markets and develop go-to-market strategies.

Working with McKinsey’s carbon-cost-curve tools, Helga has identified energy savings and other greenhouse-gas-abatement opportunities for governments and industry bodies, and as part of multilateral negotiations. She has also done substantial work on organizations’ broader sustainability agendas. Examples include defining a regulatory strategy for an industry vulnerable to reputational risk, working with an industrial manufacturer on environmental priorities, crafting the carbon and environmental strategy for both a global logistics provider and a transport-equipment manufacturer, and dealing with a consumer-goods company on sustainable materials.

Before joining McKinsey in 2006, Helga was a scientific officer at the European Chemicals Bureau of the European Commission, where she researched life-cycle assessment approaches.

Published work

The circular economy: Moving from theory to practice,” McKinsey & Company, October 2016

Managing waste in emerging markets,” McKinsey Quarterly, February 2016

The new plastics economy: Rethinking the future of plastics, a joint report from McKinsey & Company, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, and the World Economic Forum, January 2016

Growth within: A circular economy vision for a competitive Europe, a joint report from McKinsey & Company and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, June 2015

Manufacturing resource productivity,” McKinsey Quarterly, June 2012

Past experience

European Chemicals Bureau, European Commission
Scientific officer

Carmanah Technologies
Product manager

Intershop Communications
Product manager


International Institute for Management Development, Switzerland

Lund University
MS, environmental policy, environment management

Ghent University
MS, environmental engineering