Why Bain & Company is increasing its focus on sustainability
The existential crisis created by environmental, social and governance issues is becoming harder for businesses to ignore.
"ESG to me is a real macro factor that's playing out across the world at the moment," says Ryan Crouch, a Senior Manager at one of the world's top consulting firms Bain & Company.
"It's reshaping the way society should be set up, the way businesses should be set up."
Ryan is one of 130 Bain consultants who undertook post-graduate level ESG training from the Centre for Sustainability and Business at Melbourne Business School as part of a global push by the consulting firm to intensify its focus on supporting sustainable transitions for clients.
To deliver on its commitment to upskill 100 percent of its consultants in ESG – the largest move of its kind within the top-tier management consulting sector – Bain partnered with top universities and business schools around the world, including MIT, Imperial College London, HEC Paris and the Centre for Sustainability and Business.
Director of the Centre, Professor Glenn Hoetker, expects the program will help Bain fill the gap that currently exists in industry – between understanding the importance of sustainability and knowing how to integrate it into strategy.
"Many companies don't have the skills or routines to do this yet, so there is real opportunity to support clients in this," he says.
"There are often ESG follow-on opportunities to other types of engagements, so the better consultants understand ESG, the more likely they will be to identify these."
Practical solutions to ESG issues
Across three modules and two masterclasses, the program covered climate science and policy, sustainability as strategic advantage and value creation, materiality assessments, biodiversity and business links, energy transition as well as circular economy and supply chains.
"The training we did was a number of modules," says Ryan.
"It covered an initial introduction to the concepts of ESG, drawing on both campaigns, existing IP and perspectives, along with unique perspectives as well."
Consultant Anna Gilmore, another participant of the program, says that while there aren't answers for every single ESG issue yet, clients are beginning to recognise the need to take action.
"We're at least moving past the: 'Why is this important?' I think more and more people understand that," she says.
"But the question is: 'How do we go about tackling this? How do we go about solving this, and within the timeframe?'
"It's a massive challenge across a lot of different industries. So, it's a terrible problem to be facing, but it's a fascinating problem to solve as well."
For Associate Consultant Sophie Shrimpton, the training helps them understand the “big-picture framing of everything that's going on”.
“And I think, in particular, understanding how all the dynamic systems interplay and what you need to be considering in terms of the bigger picture that your client sits in," they said. “Just specific solutions for our clients."
Associate Consultant Srishti Toora thinks the program was particularly valuable for providing solutions that are effective, feasible and tailored to the needs of clients.
"We're actively promoting sustainability work with our clients and trying to see how they can integrate it within their daily activities and the overall vision at the end," she said.
"What Bain is doing is ensuring that we as consultants have the knowledge of what ESG is and how we can use that knowledge with our clients to provide them with various solutions depending on what industry it is."
Connecting theory to business
Professor Hoetker (pictured) says the program will give consultants who want to work in ESG "a running start" – but will also be of benefit to those who simply want a broader awareness of contemporary business challenges.
"It gives those who don't necessarily want to move into ESG the skills to identify ESG issues – and related risk and opportunities – as part of their regular work," he says.
"Consultants can then have a better understanding of key social and economic issues, which they will continue to encounter in their professional and personal lives."
Professor Hoetker adds that many consultants didn't have the opportunity to learn about ESG issues during their formal studies – and even among those that have, many won't have had the chance to explore their implications for business.
"This training is meant to give all consultants a foundational understanding of ESG issues, as well as the ability to connect those to the business issues confronting their clients."
To learn more about what sustainability means for your organisation, visit the Centre for Sustainability and Business page.