- دووال شو
- Business Correspondent, BBC
2 hours ago
Rich Lesser, president of the global Boston Consulting Group, thinks CEOs of big companies live in a “bubble”, and explains why he had to break out of that bubble to understand the importance of climate change.
The global Boston Consulting Group employs more than 22,000 people in its offices around the world, and has annual revenues in excess of $8 billion.
Lesser joined the company immediately after graduating from business school in 1988, having trained as a chemical engineer, and spent a quarter of a century moving up the career ladder at the company, until he became CEO in 2013, a position he stepped down at the end of September , to become the Chairman of the Global Board of Directors.
Lesser explains why CEO bubbles form: “When you’re at the top of the company hierarchy, you have a huge impact on people’s jobs, so there is a natural tendency for people to say things they think you want to hear, which align with your outlook. to the world, or that make you happy.”
This “bubble” is slowly forming, Lesser explains, because your peers still initially see you as an equal, they know you and your background. But over time, he says, a “gap appears” between the CEO and all of the company’s other employees.
As a result, CEOs need to create a proactive environment that encourages meaningful discussion.
“I try to celebrate anyone who is right and who is wrong in any situation,” Lesser says. “That’s how you break that bubble.”
He cites the case of climate change, for example, admitting that he has been slow to understand the importance of this issue in terms of the need to change the company’s culture and practices.
“We were already working on tackling climate change, but not as aggressively as we needed to, and I had BCG partners on my strong advocate, to bolster our broader partnership,” he says.
It got to the point that one of Germany’s top partners took matters into their own hands, sending a mass email with a video he had made himself warning of the dangers of not acting effectively on climate change.
It would have been embarrassing for Lesser to take a clear stance on the matter, given that BCG has major clients in the oil industry, not to mention the political fallout in the United States, especially during the administration of former President Donald Trump.
“But those partners who challenged me turned out to be right,” Lesser says. “It changed our course and helped me break out of the bubble around me.”
The Corona virus was one of the factors that helped change the course of the company, as the epidemic forced the company to rethink its traditional business models, in a way that helps achieve climate goals.
Management consultants and the multinational companies they service are known to be some of the worst offenders in terms of carbon emissions, due to traveling a lot while they work. Before the pandemic, consultants scoured the globe in flights for short, face-to-face meetings with clients.
“Life has been very difficult for them, because sometimes they move across two or three continents in one week, but now we go from one place to another via Zoom!” says Lesser.
Lesser notes that this development is better for the environment and helps customers gain a variety of experiences more easily.
And last September, the Boston Consulting Group committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by cutting full-time employee travel by 30 percent by 2025. It also pledged to reduce net carbon emissions to zero by 2030.
Since breaking the bubble around him, Lesser has joined the coalition of climate leaders at the World Economic Forum. He will attend talks at the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow in early November.
So, what tangible results would he like to see from the conference? He replies, “We never get as far as we want perfectly. It’s very difficult politically, but it’s not an equation in which everything is achieved or nothing is achieved at all, it is possible to achieve some goals.”
Lesser believes it is necessary to accelerate national commitments to reduce carbon production in the global economy, while providing additional assistance to developing countries.
But he also would like politicians to give clear guidance to big companies in their quest to reduce carbon emissions.
“I would like to see a price for carbon. It is an external factor that has to be priced, which will make it easier for companies to make investments, commit and move forward faster,” he says.
Lesser would like to protect companies that are committed to change.
“First companies are nervous, and they have a right to it,” Lesser says.
“These companies are going to make these big investments, and it will affect them because customers will not be willing to pay more for the products they get,” he says.
“So, we have to be able to protect those companies that move first, through some sort of border control mechanism, or other ways to prevent the penalization of the bold and investing companies.”
“It’s a very important conference,” he says, “but I don’t think any of us know whether we’ll end up looking at it as a huge success or not producing the results we needed.”
After Lesser stepped down as CEO of Boston Consulting Group after more than three decades with the company, to be replaced by Christoph Schweitzer, he noticed a change in the mindset of new hires — one evident in other companies as well.
Lesser says the new generation wants a clear sense of purpose from companies, to give meaning to their working lives.
“They want a clear intent of what you’re trying to achieve in the world, with real-life examples, and you have to encourage that,” he says. “This is very different than it was a decade ago, when most companies were only thinking about shareholders, unfortunately, which they were It often translates to short-term performance.”
In order to harness this energy, Lesser argues, other CEOs need to break out of the bubbles that surround them.
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