Boston Consulting Group is typically associated with strategy projects at large companies. However, BCG also works on many other types of projects ranging from work in the public sector to Social Impact projects worldwide. But why do Social Impact? We asked Matias Pollmann-Larsen, Principal, and Merle Stepke-Müller, Consultant, to give us an insight into the pro-bono work they do at BCG.
Why does BCG do Social Impact and how does it work?
“BCG’s purpose is to “Unlock the potential of those who advance the world”. This applies to our clients but also to society at large. Therefore we partner with organizations on social impact projects to unlock their potential to advance the world.
Most of the social impact work we do is casework, often for our global social impact partners such as the World Wildlife Fund and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Here we solve the same challenges as we do in cases for our corporate clients by for example asking: What is the strategy, how do we operationalize it, how do we grow, how do we transform, how do we raise more funding, how do we manage our organization better?
However, in the last few years, we are also moving the social impact topic into our work for our corporate clients. The private sector is in many ways the key for the world to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. The investment gap to get there relies on the private sector. We have proved that doing good for the world is not a trade-off to business results but actually can create a competitive advantage.
In 2017, we published a study that found companies that do well in delivering total societal impact – the aggregate of their impact on society — boast higher margins and valuations. This year, we launched a new report on best practices for societal impact in the Nordics where we identified the recipe for companies to both do good and simultaneously strengthen their core business.”
Can you talk about BCG’s work with gender diversity and UN Women?
“While we in many ways can help societal progress through our work with our clients, sometimes we also help put focus on broader societal issues that are not necessarily tackled by the individual organization, such as gender diversity. We do this by creating content pieces, facilitating round table discussions, and through broader partnerships where we gather leaders and unify them to fight a specific challenge.
One example of this is our partnership with UN Women. We partner with them and 16 other leaders from Danish society: CEOs and Chairs from the private sector, presidents from universities, civil society, and leaders from advocacy groups such as Danish Industries. Together we have a series of events as well as a yearly round table discussion on how leaders can unlock their abilities to drive gender diversity, lead by example, and visibly show they want change. We at BCG are chairing and facilitating this group with UN Women, and simultaneously creating fact-based content pieces that we bring to the table to drive the topic forward.”
What is your interest in Social Impact and why did you end up at BCG?
“I have a Bachelor in International Affairs from St. Gallen in Switzerland and a Master in International Business and Politics from Copenhagen Business School, so I have always had a split-interest in doing business and political science. I have also done internships during my studies in both sectors working amongst others for the UNDP, a German embassy, and a small management consulting firm.
After my Master’s degree, I joined a small consulting firm focused on corporate respect for human rights, working with both corporate clients and NGOs, which I really enjoyed. I believe that it is not only the public and civil society that play a role, but corporates play a large role in shaping society and achieving sustainable development.
BCG especially has the ability to play an important role and have significant impact through the many projects we do. It is a great opportunity to be able to leverage BCG’s network, expertise, and skills to drive impact for society as a whole.”
What is it like working on social impact?
“Ever since I joined BCG, I have done a lot of Social Impact work; in the first few years mainly on the side of normal casework, where I, for example, co-founded the BCG Copenhagen Green Team, an initiative to reduce our own environmental footprint.
Since August last year (2018), I have been able to focus entirely on Social Impact through an internal program called Social Impact Immersion Program.
BCG’s Social Impact Immersion Program offers consultants to focus a full year on only social impact. In this program, I am mostly working together with our global social impact partners. It has been a fantastic experience to work for organizations like the World Wildlife Fund and the World Food Programme. Our social impact cases resemble the cases we do for our corporate clients but are usually staffed with teams that are more global with consultants and BCG partners from different countries and continents. However, we of course also handle local social impact cases in most of our national offices.
We also just launched this year’s annual report on social impact at BCG Copenhagen, describing some of the projects we have done this year, such as improving integration efforts in Denmark and minimizing food loss and waste.”