Bain cares deeply about environmental, social, and governance (ESG) issues and has been implementing programs to address them for decades. Since the late 1980s, it’s made space for official affinity groups such as Black at Bain (BAB). In 2005, it launched Green Teams to handle sustainability initiatives at the office level, from reducing energy consumption to composting. The firm’s Sustainability & Responsibility practice was formed in 2011 and in 2015, Bain made a ten-year, $1.1B pro bono commitment to tackle the world’s toughest ESG challenges. The firm often scores 100% on the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index, was the first top consulting firm to achieve carbon neutral certification, and recently committed to science-based climate action targets.
That said, Bain is always looking to do more, and leadership recognized that ESG has become one of the most pressing issues its clients face. Leadership wanted to prepare consultants to work on these issues and equip them with the technical skills and knowledge sought by clients. In addition, there was an opportunity for this new training to help interested individuals specialize.
Bain’s first ever Global Managing Partner of ESG, François Faelli, announced a commitment to offer ESG upskilling to all consultants. The team in Brussels decided to enact the company’s goal through a training program. “To become the leading consulting firm in ESG,” says Alexandre Gueulette, Associate Partner, “we needed to ensure all our employees had mastered these topics.”
This wasn't the first ESG training initiative Bain had launched. There had been Further Learning, an internal ESG training platform, and lots of content in Bain’s general purpose knowledge management platform. But it would be the most comprehensive, and highest profile.
The Sustainability & Responsibility practice set about developing a program. It would have to overcome the challenge that different employees had different baseline understandings. The practice decided that the best approach would be a global initiative with local implementation—each region would partner with a major university and develop their own curricula, then tailor it as needed to students.
Modules covered the full spectrum of ESG topics, from the carbon transition to circularity and food systems.
The goal was threefold:
Equip Bainies with the skills they’d need to navigate the world of tomorrow
Offer an inspiring path to Bainies who wanted to specialize
Generate a positive impact for clients and society
With this, each region prepared to launch its own version.
What ESG expertise would employees need to help clients and society?
What were employees' existing levels of ESG understanding?
What was the latest ESG science and the best way to teach it?
How could Bain best combine its business insights and universities’ science?
What university partners would do the best job of delivering the material?
How could the program work for all knowledge levels?
How could the program be designed to teach all employees rapidly?
Many offices began contacting local universities, starting with the Solvay Brussels School of Economics and Management, and the group grew to include the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the Imperial College of London, HEC Paris, Melbourne Business School, and more.
The Brussels office acted first, and their enthusiasm sparked a friendly global race. Global Managing Partner of ESG, François Faelli, as well as Associate Partner Alexandre Gueulette, and several others in Brussels named their program “Sustainability 101.” The curriculum they co-developed with the Solvay Brussels School was a win for both parties—the school hadn’t yet developed a course that included the sort of business insights that Bain could provide. Once the launch drew near, Bain’s marketing team helped build excitement and the practice built the offering iteratively, adapting it to engage as many employees as possible.
Bain’s Australian offices partnered with the Melbourne Business School to create three modules and two masterclasses. The training covered climate science and policy, planetary boundaries, doughnut economics, climate risks, biodiversity, climate regulation and business risks, and more. “This program gives those who want to get into ESG work a running start,” says Professor Glenn Hoetker, Director of the Centre for Sustainability and Business at the Melbourne Business School.
In Italy, the team selected Bocconi University and conducted joint workshops to brainstorm. They decided on four modules which each focused on a key topic. “We called the entire course ‘Value Creation’ because we are obsessed with this approach and believe it’s the only way to tackle sustainability,” says Matteo Capellini, Associate Partner. The Italian team’s content takes learners quickly from theory to action, and they decided not to make it mandatory, so learners would feel committed. Nevertheless, the first five cohorts filled up on a waitlist. They then replicated this program for offices in Istanbul and Greece.
In the Americas, the team partnered with MIT Sloan to develop the “Sustainability in Action” training program and 1,100 Bainies opted in to learn how to make the business case for sustainability, explore sustainable business strategies, grow their understanding of ESG reporting, and much more. This training is being rolled out to all Bainies digitally throughout 2023. “I like the focus on shifting our mindsets and tactical steps we can take to align sustainability goals with business strategy,” said one participant.
For all courses, many of which occurred in-person, the global operations and human resources teams found spaces, filled seats, and managed the heavy organizational and logistical lift of ensuring anyone who wanted to attend could.
The feedback from attendees has been stellar. The majority of programs were received exactly as intended—and had the intended effect. They’ve helped employees act with the utmost responsibility, inspired some Bainies to want to specialize in these topics, and will hopefully have a meaningful impact for Bain’s clients and the world.