Bain & Company sets out to slash business travel emissions

05 August 2021 3 min. read
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Bain & Company plans to reduce its scope 3 emissions from business travel by 35% over the next five years. The news is the latest example of a sustained push by the world’s leading strategy consultancies to green their business.

Achieving carbon neutral status for the past 10 years in a row, Bain & Company is determined to find new ways to improve its climate impact. The firm is firmly aligned with the Science-Based Targets Initiative's 'Business Ambition for 1.5°C,' which the firm signed up to in 2020, when it committed to achieve net zero climate impact by the end of the decade.

So far, the firm has eliminated 68% of its scope 1 and 2 emissions (emissions from fuel combustion or purchased electricity) over the past decade – having converted to 100% renewable electricity, as well as improved the energy efficiency of its offices and finding ways to reduce waste from its operations. Now, Bain hopes to tackle its scope 3 emissions over the coming five years.

Bain & Company sets out to slash business travel emissions

"We are long past picking low-hanging fruit, and we are following the same advice we give to our clients: setting audacious goals that are realistic and measurable," said Sam Israelit, Bain's Chief Sustainability Officer. "Our firm is hyper focused on mitigating the impact of our emissions on the environment and accelerating our carbon transition. We continue to lead the way in our own industry while also equipping our clients and non-profit partners to do the same."

Scope 3 emissions include purchased goods and services, waste disposal, use of sold products, investments, and transportation of employees and products. In particular in the travel-intensive consulting industry, business flights are a major contributor to climate change. So, as Bain looks to improve its ecological footprint in this regard, it has announced bold new plans to reduce its business travel emissions by 35%.

"Like most businesses, the pandemic gave us a chance to step back and reimagine the ways we've historically worked," said Torsten Lichtenau, Global Head of Bain's carbon transition impact area, within its sustainability and responsibility consulting practice.

According to Lichtenau, the pandemic proved there are times when consultants can still be effective with clients by leveraging technology, instead of visiting sites in-person. As such, Bain will now look to collaborate in a hybrid work environment, wherever possible.

Bain's sustainability and responsibility consulting practice has grown significantly over the past decade, completing more than 500 client projects in the last two years alone. Meanwhile, earlier in 2021, Bain announced that it received a gold rating from EcoVadis, the leading platform for environmental, social and ethical performance ratings, putting Bain among the top 2% of professional services companies for its sustainability practices. However, it is not the only major consulting brand looking to boost its environmental credentials.

MBB rival Boston Consulting Group recently announced plans to spend $400 million on its 2030 climate positive goals. One way it is doing this sees flights taken by BCG employees in the Nordics on SAS and Finnair flights would be powered by sustainable aviation fuel. The scheme comes as part of a new agreement with Finnish renewable solutions provider Neste. With aviation accounting for nearly 3% of global carbon emissions, Neste’s solution is a high-impact option for businesses with net zero aims. The firm has anticipated this demand, and plans to up production to 1.5 million tonnes by the end of 2023.

Elsewhere, the whole Big Four has also committed to various net zero goals before 2030, with KPMG becoming the last to announce such a target in 2020. The firm’s targets include a 50% reduction of KPMG’s direct and indirect greenhouse gas emissions.