In the seven years Rich Lesser has led Boston Consulting Group, the global consulting firm’s revenue and workforce has more than doubled, to exceed $8 billion and 20,000 today.
But there’s at least one major milestone that still remains on Lesser’s to-do list as he enters his final two years in the chief executive’s role: addressing climate change on a broad scale.
BCG has worked hard to control its own environmental footprint; it became “carbon neutral” in 2018. Lesser says BCG now buys carbon offsets to compensate for its consultants’ numerous flights, for example, and his leadership is eyeing ways to cut back on the number of jet trips they need to make.
While Lesser says BCG can do more to limit its own impact, he’s also looking at the company’s growing list of business and government clients and leading nonprofits. He wants his firm to be a “thought leader” on the issue, by discussing best practices in corporate boardrooms and at major conferences. Toward those ends, BCG recently created a “Center for Climate Action” to provide an internal structure for the consultancy’s climate work.
“What’s going on with climate is an existential crisis,” Lesser says. “It touches not just the generation we’re in, it touches future generations in irreversible ways potentially. We have a responsibility and we’re in a unique position. We work across all industries. We have great problem-solving skills. We know how to make change happen.”
In 2020, Lesser wants to see the growth at BCG continue, including at the company’s relatively new Seaport offices. (With roughly 1,300 local employees, the Boston operation remains one of BCG’s biggest employment hubs, although Lesser is based in New York.) Some of that growth, Lesser says, should come from climate work.
One key point BCG will make: curbing carbon emissions can be done without a significant negative impact to the economy.
“I don’t talk to a CEO now where climate hasn’t moved up dramatically on the list [of priorities] in the last 12 months,” Lesser says. “The combination of the private sector and the public sector is essential to make progress on this.”
First Night ready to ring in new decade
First Night has yet to become a break-even proposition for Conventures, the Boston business that took over the New Year’s Eve extravaganza here in 2015. But thanks to president Dusty Rhodes and her team, the 44-year-old tradition will survive into a new decade.
First Night events used to sprawl across much of Back Bay and downtown, with performers at various venues playing for people who paid for buttons to attend. However, Conventures dispensed with charging for admission — everything is free now. Likewise, Rhodes and her firm have scaled things back.
“When we took it over, we said we’re going crawl, rather than run, and we put everything in iconic Copley Square and made it free,” Rhodes says.
As a result, the budget is now around $270,000 or so, less than a third of its cost during its heyday. Rhodes says she rounds up donations as best as she can, but still expects to fall $30,000 to $40,000 short, a cost that will be picked up by her firm.
Those figures don’t include the cost of the 7 p.m. fireworks over Boston Common, which are covered by the Mugar Foundation, or the midnight fireworks over the harbor, funded through Boston Harbor Now. The city of Boston also helps with public safety expenses and NBC promotes the festivities on its local stations.
The trademark for “First Night” remains with an affiliated nonprofit, Boston Celebrations. Rhodes says event organizers are starting to reach out to other communities — there are at least 40 — that use the “First Night” phrase to establish licensing agreements with them. However, those agreements will bring in only nominal fees. Instead, Rhodes plans to push for big corporate gifts in time for the next First Night a year from now, to finally make the event self-sustaining.
Restaurant empire adding in Worcester
Joey Arcari’s restaurant empire is based in South Boston but he couldn’t help but give Worcester a look. Now, Arcari and his partners at Broadway Hospitality Group have decided to build a flagship in New England’s second largest city.
BHG recently signed an agreement with Chip Norton, president of Franklin Realty Advisors, to open a 500-seat, two-story restaurant at the Mercantile Center in Worcester’s downtown.
Arcari’s company runs a number of Tavern in the Square restaurants, as well as Tavitas in South Station and The Broadway and The Playwright in South Boston.
He’s not sure what the new restaurant will be called. Tavern in the Square is out, because he already has a Tavern in nearby Shrewsbury. He was initially thinking about calling it The Broadway, like the Southie restaurant, but there’s already another place with that name in Worcester. Arcari says he may name his restaurant after its address on Mercantile Street instead.
One thing is for sure: When the 13,000-square-foot location opens in 2021, it will be the largest establishment in Arcari’s portfolio. (A Ruth’s Chris Steak House will also open in a smaller spot in the Mercantile Center in the fall of 2020.)
Arcari says he was impressed by the signs of an economic resurgence in the city. “Worcester is that hot city that’s on everybody’s tongue,” he said.
Grand Circle raises transit subsidy
The employees at Grand Circle Corp. know how to help customers plan vacation trips. Navigating Boston’s crowded trains and highways? They have the same headaches as the rest of us.
But starting Jan. 1, employees at the Fort Point travel company will have a less expensive commute when the company begins paying all of their public transit costs. Until now, Grand Circle paid 75 percent of the mass transit costs of its nearly 600 Boston employees. The company’s parking subsidies will remain at 45 percent.
Nearly two-thirds of Grand Circle’s employees use public transportation.
Even before this change, Grand Circle’s mass transit subsidy was among the most generous in Boston. Chief operating officer Chris Zigmont says there were a few factors behind owner Alan Lewis’ decision to increase the subsidy, which is expected to cost the company more than $100,000 a year. The benefit helps with employee retention and with recruiting new workers. And then there’s the potential environmental benefit by incentivizing employees not to drive to work.
Plus, with all the surface parking lots disappearing in and around Fort Point amid the area’s development boom, parking spaces have become an increasingly hot commodity.
Curaleaf names a vice president
You might say that Tracy Brady is turning a new leaf.
After more than 15 years in Boston’s ad industry, Brady has joined Curaleaf Holdings in Wakefield as its first vice president of corporate communications. Curaleaf, a cannabis company that employs 2,000 people nationwide, including 220 in Massachusetts, became publicly traded in 2018.
Brady most recently worked at ad agency Hill Holliday as a senior vice president of communications and corporate marketing. She left in November.
Brady said she joined Curaleaf in part because of the company’s leadership role in the growing cannabis industry. Plus, the daily commute has been cut in half; no more schlepping into downtown Boston.
“They’re creating jobs, providing accessibility and solutions to a variety of patients, and helping drive positive change in health and wellness attitudes,” Brady said in an e-mail. “I couldn’t be more excited that it’s happening in my own backyard.”
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