Boston Consulting Group stops wining and dining flights for recruits to cut CO2 footprint


Management consulting updates

Boston Consulting Group will no longer fly prospective graduate hires across Europe to be wined and dined on international trips, highlighting the trend of companies attempting to reduce their carbon footprint.

High-achieving graduates offered contracts to join the consultancy’s London office have traditionally been invited on all expenses paid weekends away to European destinations such as Florence and Lisbon.

The US-based group, which has offices in more than 90 cities around the world, competes fiercely for recruits with the other leading consultancies such as McKinsey and Bain & Company.

The trips included sightseeing and wine-tasting at vineyards and were also attended by seasoned BCG consultants, who were given the task of convincing students to join the group as advisers to some of the world’s biggest companies such as Starbucks, Shell and GlaxoSmithKline.

But future events will now be held either domestically or in international locations accessible by train as the group seeks to reduce its carbon emissions.

The change comes as many companies make net zero climate pledges and after the shift to remote working established video calls as a viable alternative to many business trips.

The Covid-19 pandemic has also accelerated BCG’s efforts to reduce travel distances for internal events such as training in an attempt to lower its carbon footprint and save on travel time, said Mai-Britt Poulsen, BCG’s managing partner for the UK, Ireland, the Netherlands and Belgium.

“We are committed to reducing our carbon emission by 50 per cent per learner by 2025,” she said. “In London, this means that graduates would catch the Eurostar to Paris for training.” In the past, graduates might have flown.

A senior partner at another large consulting firm said its annual two-week residential boot camp for new joiners would move partly online in future because the pandemic had shown parts of the programme could be run remotely.

The event, which the consultant said had a “work hard play hard” atmosphere, doubled as a social occasion and a way of getting new consultants up to speed with the basic skills needed for their roles.

Consultants at several firms said many national or European partner and board meetings, as well as internal training sessions, would move online or be held as hybrid events after the pandemic.

The push by advisory groups to reduce their carbon footprint has also led to increased pressure for some staff to avoid flying business class, which is more carbon-intensive, one of the consultants said.

Business travel accounts for more than 75 per cent of many professional services firms’ carbon emissions, prompting groups such as BCG, KPMG and Deloitte to use online tools showing staff the CO2 impact of their travel plans before they book.

BCG has also banned its consultants from taking flights from Paris to Nice, while staff at KPMG’s London office are required to take the train for trips to Leeds, Manchester, Paris or Brussels.

“Once Covid-19 related travel restrictions are lifted, we will be asking our people to think harder about how much they need to fly,” said Carmine Di Sibio, global chair and chief executive of accountant EY.

“For example: Could you do the meeting online? Could you make one longer trip instead of making two shorter ones? Could you fly a shorter route to your destination? Are there any lower carbon alternatives you could use, such as a train?”

Kevin Ellis, senior partner and chair of PwC UK, said he expected business trips by his firm to be reduced by about two-thirds compared with pre-pandemic levels.