For as long as he can remember, Daniel Mahler has been environmentally aware. Growing up in Germany in the 1970s, he says there "was a real consciousness to the fact that we live in a world we can't take for granted.” During the oil crisis that decade, he says, the U.S. moved on rather quickly, but in Europe there was much more public debate about the issues connected with the environment. "I think we realize that our planet is in a lot of trouble, and I realized that we have to take great care of the way we use it,” Mahler says.
And that's just what he does. As a partner at A.T. Kearney and the firm's global coordinator for sustainability, Mahler spends his time coaching his clients on how to succeed in an environmentally responsible way.
"I think we can truly help clients do well and do good at the same time,” Mahler says. "This goes right to the very core of our clients' business models, strategies and how they are set up to survive and thrive in the future. As consultants, we are in a perfect position to do something about it. If you really take the term ‘trusted adviser' seriously, I don't think there's any way you can ignore this.”
Mahler, who has been with A.T. Kearney since the late 1990s, led the charge for the sustainability movement at the firm after one of his largest clients approached him and "sort of pushed me and the firm to be at the forefront of the sustainability movement. And that initial engagement sort of led me down this road that eventually led to being the leader of the movement at A.T. Kearney.”
Today, that movement is the 90-person Sustainability Practice that launched at the end of 2006. To date, A.T. Kearney has invested more than $6 million in research and intellectual capital on the subject, and the firm is doing a healthy global business around streamlining supply chains and operations. "It was a top-down decision by [chairman] Paul Laudicina and the board to reposition the firm and make sustainability part of the firm's DNA,” Mahler says. "At the same time, the [practice] was energized by a lot of bottom-up interest from younger consultants and existing partners.”
And Mahler is making great efforts to make sure A.T. Kearney is practicing what it's preaching. Under his leadership, the firm has pledged to reduce its carbon footprint 20 percent a quarter on its way to being carbon neutral by 2010. A big part of that plan is what Mahler calls "an alterna-tive delivery model” of the firm's services, which focuses on decreased air travel—particularly for more junior-level consultants.
The other aspect of the plan is an increased dependence on new technologies, such as videoconferencing, to facilitate client interaction. It also asks the chief financial officer to serve as the head of the "green police.”
"Andrew Thomas Kearney said consulting is all about the essential rightness of our advice,” Mahler says. "He said that 80 years ago, but I don't think he could have said it any better today.”