Executive Briefings

A Focused Journey to Achieve Carbon Neutrality

On July 19, 2010, A.T. Kearney achieved carbon neutrality, completing a journey begun in 2007, when the firm's board of directors committed to becoming carbon-neutral in all aspects of global operations within three years. In making this pledge, Paul Laudicina, A.T. Kearney's managing officer and chairman of the board, acknowledged that the biggest challenge would be in addressing carbon emissions from travel. This component typically comprises 80 percent of the company's carbon footprint.

As A.T. Kearney examined its internal operations, the company refocused its sustainability practice and service offering. The expertise and experience of the sustainability practice guided the development of the internal carbon-reduction program, and at the same time the rigor of the internal analysis and resulting innovations provided insights for clients' sustainability programs.

To achieve the carbon neutrality pledge, A.T. Kearney  developed and implemented a five-step program in which the company: 1) established baseline metrics for carbon indicators; 2) built a global network of internal sustainability champions; 3) spearheaded local activities and honed best practices; 4) developed models for serving clients; and 5) invested in climate-protecting carbon offset projects. Below is a summary of the actions taken as part of this five-step program.

  1. Established baseline metrics for carbon indicators
    Because the sustainability industry is still emerging and standards are evolving, the A.T. Kearney sustainability team, working with the finance organization, needed to develop rigorous methodologies for calculating the firm's carbon footprint, establishing baseline metrics, and tracking key data. For example, the team gathers firm-wide travel information that is used to report quarterly emissions. It also created a data repository that supports sophisticated modeling and scenario planning, using detailed information down to the individual employee level. Other data comes from IT (hardware) and office services, which tracks electricity usage, heating and paper consumption, among other things.

The A.T. Kearney sustainability team adopted industry-leading metrics and relied on state-of-the-art scientific research from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and emission calculation methodologies from Atmosfair, a not-for-profit sustainability partner. The metric for air travel is built on calculations of climate-impact potential that is much more precise than using only CO2 emissions. Working together with the A.T. Kearney travel department, this joint team developed a state-of-the-art travel planner that measures the carbon footprint of all key elements of a business trip, including the carbon emission differences from various types of aircraft, hotels, rental cars and public transportation. 

  1. Built a global network of sustainability champions
    When A.T. Kearney initiated the pledge to achieve carbon neutrality in 2007, many of the company's local offices were already up and running with environmentally-focused projects. Armed with new metrics, the company is now able to coordinate firm-wide efforts while highlighting the remaining challenges. Today, a chief sustainability officer coordinates a global network of sustainability "czars"-designated champions who work within their local regions to recruit teams of "eco-committed" consultants and management services staff.

The czars use the firm's quarterly sustainability metrics-with data by country, business unit, employees and rank-to measure local performance and assess projects under way in other offices. The czars are aided by the A.T. Kearney Global Sustainability Program Manager, who promotes the exchange of ideas and innovative activities across offices and coordinates with various functions, including finance, knowledge services, travel and office services.

  1. Spearheaded local activities and honed best practices
    Throughout A.T. Kearney's global network, office sustainability teams focus on educating and doing-improving recycling, implementing greener energy options and encouraging alternative travel.

In addition, an office services team continues to make sustainability an integral part of the construction and remodeling of A.T. Kearney offices. To date, two North America offices, New York and Cambridge, have achieved certification by Leadership in Energy & Environment Design (LEED). The company's London office has all three certifications from the International Standards Organization (ISO): environment, quality and security.

  1. Developed innovative models for serving clients
    More than 80 percent of the firm's carbon emissions are travel related. In partnering with clients, extensive travel is often unavoidable. A.T. Kearney has, however, identified and implemented the following strategies to reduce emissions without sacrificing the quality of our services:
    • Created and adopted new tools, such as the Sustainability Travel Planner, to manage and monitor a consulting team's carbon footprint
    • Switched from air to rail transport where possible within Europe
    • Used project-staffing models to balance travel with required consultant expertise
    • Continued to work with the travel community, both buyers and suppliers, to further develop metrics in all travel categories, including hotel, car, rail, public transportation and taxi use
    • Adopted collaborative technologies to bridge the miles and reduce the need for in-person meetings
  2. Invested in climate-protecting carbon-offset projects
    While A.T. Kearney continues to reduce emissions, the company also balances its carbon footprint by investing in external climate-protection projects. The company established a rigorous request for proposal process, based on a comprehensive understanding of the carbon-offset market, a carbon forecast (determined by the company's baseline and run rate), and criteria specific to the firm. The criteria include:
    • Certification mechanisms: assess the thoroughness and rigor of internationally established methodologies for awarding certificates
    • Sustainability impact: defines and classifies projects by overall economic, social and environmental impact, such as improvements to communities, creation of jobs, reduction in waste and environmental pollution, and support for local education or health
    • Technological quality: measures transparency and accuracy of reporting greenhouse gas reductions and their impact potential
    • Geographic location and market coverage: consider diversified projects with global coverage, while focusing on emerging economies
    • Partner quality: verifies strength of implementation and investment partners using a variety of methods, including secondary research, references, third-party endorsements, audits and site visits
    • Pricing: manages the industry range and market dynamics of carbon-offset pricing

Certification Standards

With today's range of certification standards, it is important to distinguish between rigorous certification and project quality. A company's sustainability methods might be certified at the highest levels, but that does not necessarily mean its projects are being run most efficiently or its approaches and investments align to the needs of the firm. With this in mind, A.T. Kearney performs a detailed project analysis of each carbon-offset investment.

Using this approach, A.T. Kearney has built a climate-protection portfolio of projects across emerging markets- Brazil, China, India, South Africa and Turkey-with technologies that range from hydro and wind power to composting to regenerative braking systems.

The Way Forward
A.T. Kearney reduced its carbon emissions by 5 percent in 2008 and 14 percent in 2009. This year, the company anticipates reducing emissions by 20 percent. Looking ahead, A.T. Kearney plans to pursue its sustainability commitment on two fronts. Externally, the company will continue to deliver results-driven consulting for which it is known, with a focus on more responsible, sustainable practices. Internally, the company will continue to establish aggressive targets for reducing its own carbon footprint, and offset any remaining emissions by investing in top-quality internationally recognized projects.

Source: A.T. Kearney

On July 19, 2010, A.T. Kearney achieved carbon neutrality, completing a journey begun in 2007, when the firm's board of directors committed to becoming carbon-neutral in all aspects of global operations within three years. In making this pledge, Paul Laudicina, A.T. Kearney's managing officer and chairman of the board, acknowledged that the biggest challenge would be in addressing carbon emissions from travel. This component typically comprises 80 percent of the company's carbon footprint.

As A.T. Kearney examined its internal operations, the company refocused its sustainability practice and service offering. The expertise and experience of the sustainability practice guided the development of the internal carbon-reduction program, and at the same time the rigor of the internal analysis and resulting innovations provided insights for clients' sustainability programs.

To achieve the carbon neutrality pledge, A.T. Kearney  developed and implemented a five-step program in which the company: 1) established baseline metrics for carbon indicators; 2) built a global network of internal sustainability champions; 3) spearheaded local activities and honed best practices; 4) developed models for serving clients; and 5) invested in climate-protecting carbon offset projects. Below is a summary of the actions taken as part of this five-step program.

  1. Established baseline metrics for carbon indicators
    Because the sustainability industry is still emerging and standards are evolving, the A.T. Kearney sustainability team, working with the finance organization, needed to develop rigorous methodologies for calculating the firm's carbon footprint, establishing baseline metrics, and tracking key data. For example, the team gathers firm-wide travel information that is used to report quarterly emissions. It also created a data repository that supports sophisticated modeling and scenario planning, using detailed information down to the individual employee level. Other data comes from IT (hardware) and office services, which tracks electricity usage, heating and paper consumption, among other things.

The A.T. Kearney sustainability team adopted industry-leading metrics and relied on state-of-the-art scientific research from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and emission calculation methodologies from Atmosfair, a not-for-profit sustainability partner. The metric for air travel is built on calculations of climate-impact potential that is much more precise than using only CO2 emissions. Working together with the A.T. Kearney travel department, this joint team developed a state-of-the-art travel planner that measures the carbon footprint of all key elements of a business trip, including the carbon emission differences from various types of aircraft, hotels, rental cars and public transportation. 

  1. Built a global network of sustainability champions
    When A.T. Kearney initiated the pledge to achieve carbon neutrality in 2007, many of the company's local offices were already up and running with environmentally-focused projects. Armed with new metrics, the company is now able to coordinate firm-wide efforts while highlighting the remaining challenges. Today, a chief sustainability officer coordinates a global network of sustainability "czars"-designated champions who work within their local regions to recruit teams of "eco-committed" consultants and management services staff.

The czars use the firm's quarterly sustainability metrics-with data by country, business unit, employees and rank-to measure local performance and assess projects under way in other offices. The czars are aided by the A.T. Kearney Global Sustainability Program Manager, who promotes the exchange of ideas and innovative activities across offices and coordinates with various functions, including finance, knowledge services, travel and office services.

  1. Spearheaded local activities and honed best practices
    Throughout A.T. Kearney's global network, office sustainability teams focus on educating and doing-improving recycling, implementing greener energy options and encouraging alternative travel.

In addition, an office services team continues to make sustainability an integral part of the construction and remodeling of A.T. Kearney offices. To date, two North America offices, New York and Cambridge, have achieved certification by Leadership in Energy & Environment Design (LEED). The company's London office has all three certifications from the International Standards Organization (ISO): environment, quality and security.

  1. Developed innovative models for serving clients
    More than 80 percent of the firm's carbon emissions are travel related. In partnering with clients, extensive travel is often unavoidable. A.T. Kearney has, however, identified and implemented the following strategies to reduce emissions without sacrificing the quality of our services:
    • Created and adopted new tools, such as the Sustainability Travel Planner, to manage and monitor a consulting team's carbon footprint
    • Switched from air to rail transport where possible within Europe
    • Used project-staffing models to balance travel with required consultant expertise
    • Continued to work with the travel community, both buyers and suppliers, to further develop metrics in all travel categories, including hotel, car, rail, public transportation and taxi use
    • Adopted collaborative technologies to bridge the miles and reduce the need for in-person meetings
  2. Invested in climate-protecting carbon-offset projects
    While A.T. Kearney continues to reduce emissions, the company also balances its carbon footprint by investing in external climate-protection projects. The company established a rigorous request for proposal process, based on a comprehensive understanding of the carbon-offset market, a carbon forecast (determined by the company's baseline and run rate), and criteria specific to the firm. The criteria include:
    • Certification mechanisms: assess the thoroughness and rigor of internationally established methodologies for awarding certificates
    • Sustainability impact: defines and classifies projects by overall economic, social and environmental impact, such as improvements to communities, creation of jobs, reduction in waste and environmental pollution, and support for local education or health
    • Technological quality: measures transparency and accuracy of reporting greenhouse gas reductions and their impact potential
    • Geographic location and market coverage: consider diversified projects with global coverage, while focusing on emerging economies
    • Partner quality: verifies strength of implementation and investment partners using a variety of methods, including secondary research, references, third-party endorsements, audits and site visits
    • Pricing: manages the industry range and market dynamics of carbon-offset pricing

Certification Standards

With today's range of certification standards, it is important to distinguish between rigorous certification and project quality. A company's sustainability methods might be certified at the highest levels, but that does not necessarily mean its projects are being run most efficiently or its approaches and investments align to the needs of the firm. With this in mind, A.T. Kearney performs a detailed project analysis of each carbon-offset investment.

Using this approach, A.T. Kearney has built a climate-protection portfolio of projects across emerging markets- Brazil, China, India, South Africa and Turkey-with technologies that range from hydro and wind power to composting to regenerative braking systems.

The Way Forward
A.T. Kearney reduced its carbon emissions by 5 percent in 2008 and 14 percent in 2009. This year, the company anticipates reducing emissions by 20 percent. Looking ahead, A.T. Kearney plans to pursue its sustainability commitment on two fronts. Externally, the company will continue to deliver results-driven consulting for which it is known, with a focus on more responsible, sustainable practices. Internally, the company will continue to establish aggressive targets for reducing its own carbon footprint, and offset any remaining emissions by investing in top-quality internationally recognized projects.

Source: A.T. Kearney