Meet Annabelle Mercer

Annabelle Mercer is a sustainability expert for Quantis’s Strategy + Transformation team, based in the US. We spoke with her about her background, what brought her back to Quantis after a brief hiatus and how her team contributes to sustainable business transformation.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

Annabelle Mercer: I’m a sustainability expert on our Strategy and Transformation team, with about six years of experience in sustainable business strategy. I started at Quantis when I was in grad school at Duke, getting my master’s in environmental management. Since joining Quantis, I’ve had a few different roles, from interning on our Innovation team to leading the Climate Strategy team in the US.

After spending a few years with Quantis, I actually ended up taking an in-house role at a cosmetics company, which was a great learning experience. I spent about a year there, but ultimately decided to come back to the consulting world and rejoined Quantis.

What brought you back to Quantis?

AM: There were two things, really: the people and the impact we have.
We have such an inspiring, supportive, collaborative group of people here. Personally, it’s really important for me to feel connected to the people I work with, and Quantis has this very unique culture that stems from sharing a common vision and passion for sustainability. It’s why we’re all here. We’ve dedicated our careers to this. It’s really powerful to be a part of a team that cares so deeply.

The other thing about Quantis that brought me back is the positive impact we make. When you’re here, you’re at the forefront of the sustainability industry. My teammates are leading scientists, experts and thought leaders on some of the most cutting-edge sustainability topics. With my team, I can really make a meaningful difference and feel like I’m contributing to creating a more sustainable world.

What do you do now at Quantis?

AM: As a member of the Strategy and Transformation team, I work with our client partners to design strategies to address climate and nature-related impacts. We’re really all about helping our partners transform their businesses to align with planetary boundaries.

The concept of aligning with planetary boundaries can be a little bit vague and daunting, and it can come to life in a bunch of different ways. I might be working with a food company to set its ambition on water, or helping a cosmetics company rethink how it designs its product portfolio for sustainability. The work I do now is very diverse, which makes it all the more exciting.

How would you define sustainable transformation, and what do you think is the most important element to driving it?

AM: I think it’s about fundamentally changing how we do business. It’s transitioning from business models that are extractive and rooted in overconsumption to ones that are restorative and regenerative. This means integrating sustainability into every element of a company, from procurement and product design to the core business strategy.

It’s an exciting space to be in because there isn’t a simple one-size-fits-all solution for how to achieve sustainable transformation. That journey is going to look different for every company. It’s a unique opportunity for innovation and creative thinking.

I think that the most important element to driving sustainable transformation is to have the openness and willingness to try new ways of doing things and to take risks and learn as you go. The sustainability field is always evolving and changing, and it’s accelerating really rapidly. We’re all learning as we go and trying new things.

What’s been your most exciting project to date?

AM: It’s hard to pick just one! I feel like every project is so different and comes with its own unique challenges. In general, I get most excited about the projects where we’re building something from scratch.

For example, back in 2019, we had a food company come to us and they were really eager to work on sustainability but were feeling very lost about how to get started. Our team worked with them over the course of a year and a half to understand their environmental hotspots, set their targets and design a strategy and action plan. Now they have a really robust program in place, with a full sustainability team of talented and knowledgeable people. For that project in particular, it was so powerful and fulfilling to see that transformation happen. They went from learning the basics of sustainability to asking really advanced questions and pushing the needle for their whole industry.

What was your dream job growing up, and is there any connection to what you do today?

AM: Growing up, I was always outside and just loved being in nature. I really wanted to do wildlife conservation and be out in the field doing research.

That’s actually how I started my career. I was working with a couple of different zoos doing research, and I learned a ton. It was really exciting and cool being face-to-face with the animals that I cared so much about protecting.

Ultimately, I decided I wanted to find a way to contribute to that mission of conservation without having to be in a lab coat. What I do now is still very much rooted in that goal of protecting wildlife, but it’s now from the angle of transforming business practices to minimize their impact on nature.

I realized that one of the biggest levers we have to conserve nature and protect the planet is to address corporate impacts. They have such a massive influence, and there’s a huge opportunity for transformation. I shifted my career to focus on the area where I felt like I could make the biggest difference.

What motivates you, both in and out of the office?

AM: It comes down to making a positive impact on the environment. I know that sounds so cliché, and it’s probably what every single person at Quantis would say, but it’s really core to who I am. I feel this strong sense of purpose and fulfillment.

When I see the work I do making a difference, like a press release for a client setting their net-zero targets or a really popular brand releasing a new product that I know my team worked on, it’s just so rewarding. I love when I see the work that we do as consultants, which is often behind the scenes, become public and out in the world and truly making a difference.

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