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Shining the Spotlight


Empowering employees to drive sustainable change

Tim Mohin,

Partner and Director at Boston Consulting Group (BCG)
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In a recent interview for Infosys, Joel Makower of GreenBiz spoke with Tim Mohin, Partner and Director at Boston Consulting Group (BCG). Mohin has spent 39 years working in sustainability, as a government regulator and in the United States Senate, and then later in the private sector. He says that, “I've never seen a more dynamic time in sustainability. After working so hard, beating on the door, trying to get inside the C– suite, now we're being welcomed in and grilled for all the information that we've learned over all those years. So I think it's a wonderful time to be in this business because suddenly sustainability is business.”

The big change, says Mohin, is that companies recognize sustainability has business value – “not only in terms of risk avoidance, but identification of new business opportunities.” He points to his current work with BCG, saying that, “the reason I'm here is to discover the business value in sustainability, looking across value chains, looking at all the different issues from climate, water, waste, deforestation, et  cetera, each one of these is an exploration in where businesses can actually drive value.”

Asked about the effective strategies of sustainability leaders, Mohin said, “you have to be very, very good at leading through influence. You, as a sustainability leader within a company, don't control the particular issues that you're trying to influence, so you have to be good at convincing others. And that leads to the second thing, which is to really be a good communicator, not to come in with an overzealous, ‘I know the answer’ plan, but to listen, ask open-ended questions, understand where the company is, and understand what issues you can help solve, go in there as a servant leader, not so much as an environmental campaigner.”

Reflecting on his career, Mohin said that most of the change that’s happened, in terms of sustainability, has been a product of something unexpected – often external. “When I was at Apple, we had newspapers saying that our supply chain was using poor labor conditions to build their iconic products. That was a shock to the system, not only for Apple, but for other electronics manufacturers. That led to a lot of change.”

He added that, “there's much more of megatrend towards basic business value. When investors of all kinds start asking the CEO questions about environment, social, and governance issues on a regular basis, that leads to change, as well. It's slower, it takes time, it's not as fast as a New York Times press story or a shareholder resolution, but often it does make a difference within companies.”

He also predicted that more internal change is going to be driven by companies’ employees. “You've seen it at Google, you've seen it in a few other companies where employees have said, ‘the policies that our companies adopted, the products or services we're providing, are not ones that we as an employee base want to support.’ I think you're going to see more and more of that as new entrants into the workforce come preloaded with this very inspirational view that they want to work for a sustainable business. That's where I think the real change is coming from.”