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‘Current trajectory of the way in which we are doing things is not sustainable,’ McKinsey partner warns at Pung event

By Kait Kisel, student writer

An emerging topic that has become prevalent for tomorrow’s business is that of sustainability. Consumers are demanding more in the way of sustainability from companies, and those that fail to meet these demands are being left in the past.

David Feber (BS Civil Engineering ’94), partner at McKinsey & Company, drove this topic home to Eli Broad College of Business MBA students at the college’s most recent Pung Executive Speaker Series event of the fall semester. “The current trajectory of the way in which we are doing things is not sustainable,” said Feber.

David Feber. Photo by Kait Kisel.
David Feber. Photo by Kait Kisel.

The global population is expected to reach 10 billion people by the year 2100, with an anticipated three billion people entering the consuming middle class within the next 15 years. Growing global consumption will result in increasing the need for resources by up to 250 percent.

“Until recently, we have been producing goods to meet the demand by following a linear, ‘take, make, dispose’ approach that is not sustainable” said Feber. This makes a case for a circular economy.”

The circular economy puts to rest the outdated linear approach of extracting raw materials and turning those into useful products that are later disposed of in a landfill. In its place, it creates a model in which materials flow through and retain value.

In eliminating the wasting of finite resources, companies will be limiting their contributions to landfills and paving the way for a more sustainable future.

“In the initial development stages of a new product, companies must think about the product’s end use, and the ways in which they can make this product sustainable,” said Feber. This requires companies to find new and innovative ways to produce products in a way that allows the resources to remain flowing through the economy.

Feber shared not only his wisdom on cultivating a sustainable future in business, but also lessons he has come by in his years of working for McKinsey & Company.

McKinsey & Company is a large global consulting firm that operates in 60-plus countries, with 20,000 employees who in total speak 130-plus languages. The company partners with leading organizations to address their toughest issues, solving problems that matter, by working side-by-side with their clients to deliver sustainable recommendations and build lasting relationships.

The first lesson Feber presented students with is values upstage everything — never sacrifice yours. “The only thing you really have at the end of the day is your name and your reputation,” said Feber.

Secondly, the simple lesson of not needing to know right away what you want to do when you grow up. Feber encouraged students to try a broad range of things to find the correct fit for them. Exploring what is out there is key in finding what works on an individual level.

“Find something where you can have a distinct impact that you feel good about and enjoy doing, and the rest will come,” said Feber.

Next, Feber encouraged students to prioritize what is most important to them in their lives (beyond their careers) and to stick to it. Setting balances and protecting them is key to living a well-rounded life. It also encourages you to work smarter and prioritize your work efficiently and effectively.

The last lesson which Feber offered to students was, “people matter the most, find yours.”

“Finding people that I work well with in my job, with shared values and passions has been one of the most important success factors in my career” said Feber.


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