CEO Christoph Schweizer calls on climate activists to join BCG

25 February 2022 5 min. read

Strategy advisory giant Boston Consulting Group has set out its stall, as it aims to recruit a new generation of climate-savvy staff. The firm is looking to hire climate activists to join the ranks of its consultants, as it pushes to win work supporting clients with net zero initiatives.

The youngest members of the workforce are increasingly climate-conscious, according to mounting data. Recent research found Gen-Z in particular are not only adapting their own lives to reduce their carbon footprints, they are looking for life-long careers which can help the battle against climate change.

University campuses are recording ever-higher numbers of registrations for environment-based studies, while reports indicate that many of the demographic would now be willing to turn down work from companies failing to make significant efforts on environmental, social and governmental (ESG) fronts.

Christoph Schweizer, BCG

At the same time, the demand for consultants tasked with helping companies boost their ESG credentials is booming. According to research from advisory firm Verdantix, spending by companies on ESG and sustainability consulting is set to more than double over the next five years to hit record revenues of $16 billion by 2027.

As consulting firms need to build their capacity to meet these climate-centred demands, and more and more young people entering the workforce are determined to make a difference with their labour, logically the industry has begun trying to appeal to Gen Z.

Most notably, the new head of Boston Consulting Group (BCG) has stated his desire to hire climate activists to work for the consultancy. As reported by the Financial Times, the move comes as BCG is asked by more and more clients to advise on plans to reach net zero emissions.

Amid the continued tightening of the labour market, the race to win work advising on digital and sustainability projects means consultancies are shifting away from their traditional recruitment tactics. Having usually hired among those with business backgrounds, the sector is now hiring more data scientists and experts in climate and sustainability.

In order to set itself apart from other companies in a crowded field – and to boost its own push for net zero – BCG CEO Christoph Schweizer told the Financial Times the firm had tightened its policies on working for companies in high-emitting industries, and declined hundreds of millions of dollars in potential fees over the last year as a result.

“We are now at this point where I can credibly say we want climate activists to join BCG,” explained the Munich based BCG boss. “It’s a bit of a surprise. No consulting executive would have said that two or three years ago.”

Even having declined work due to ESG factors in the last year, BCG is already seeing a benefit of its new strategy. The consultancy increased its revenues by more than 20%, pushing its sales above $10 billion for the first time. This was in no small part thanks to refocusing on ESG matters: the firm now earns close to 10% of its revenue from climate consulting, and Schweizer expects this to account for as much of a third of its sales by 2027.


Sustainability credentials

Part of the MBB axis (also including strategy leaders McKinsey & Company and Bain & Company) BCG recently announced plans to spend $400 million on its 2030 climate positive goals. The company employs about 25,000 people in more than 50 countries, and has rolled out a number of initiatives to improve its climate impact, including ensuring flights taken by BCG employees in the Nordics on SAS and Finnair flights would be powered by sustainable aviation fuel; and partnering with Business Green to support its Net Zero Nature Summit.

However, not everyone is totally on-board with BCG’s apparent ‘greening.’ In 2021, environmental groups claimed that BCG’s 1 million contract to help organise the make-or-break COP26 climate conferred posed “a conflict of interest” due to the firm’s continued “ties with fossil fuel companies.”

At the same time, climate consultants from other firms have expressed concerns with the prospect of such a business co-opting the energies of climate activists. In a letter to the Financial Times, Richard Roberts – Inquiries Lead with climate transformation consultancy Volans – suggested “news that Boston Consulting Group wants to hire climate activists is a sign we’re in deep trouble.”

He continued, “It is painfully obvious that we have left it too late for voluntary market-led action to solve the climate crisis. The place we most need climate activists now is in frontline politics, deciding the laws that govern the market economy, not advising businesses on environmental, social and governance issues… We’re never going to change that if all the climate activists become management consultants.”