The Planet's Fate Can't Be Left to Management Consultants

Article excerpt

Rainforests

The two most dreaded words in any office are the same - management consultants. Their arrival rumbles through a workplace like the approaching thwump-thwump of the T-Rex in Jurassic Park, rattling our desks and making us all fear we will be picked up and gored at random. We're right to be afraid - and scornful. According to "Rip Off", a report on management consultants by David Craig, 170 organisations who used management consultants were studied in the 1990s by the Cranfield School of Management, and only 36 per cent of clients thought they had brought any value. We all know now that management consultants were threaded through the banksters and hedge funders who just crashed the global economy.

But now management consultancy has been taken to a whole new level, according to a startling new report by Greenpeace entitled: "Bad Influence: How McKinsey-inspired plans lead to rainforest destruction." Management consultants have, in effect, been tasked with setting the future of the world's rainforests - and facing accusations that they are using our money to draw up plans that will result in their more rapid destruction. Instead of stopping the loggers and miners, the report suggests they are aiding them.

To untangle this strange story, you have to go back to the rubble of the Copenhagen climate conference in 2009. Only only one good thing was agreed there. It's called REDD - Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation. Its purpose is to provide financial incentives for countries with tropical rainforests to not hack them down. It's hard to think of a more urgent cause. Dr Simon Lewis, the distinguished rainforest scientist, explains: "To highlight the importance of rainforests, imagine if they were lost quickly. This would have catastrophic impacts for all of us, as global climate patterns would be severely disrupted which would reduce global food production... But perhaps most catastrophic of all, the dead trees would release in excess of 900 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. This is as much as all humans have emitted from fossil fuel use since the industrial revolution." So there would be catastrophic global warming.

The countries of the world agreed to stump up $3.5bn to get us off the track towards this disaster. Except environmental campaigners believe the British and American governments then "recommended" that the plans about how the money should be spent had to be subject to the "advice" of McKinsey - the management consultancy firm that has trained the ruling classes of the West, from William Hague to Chelsea Clinton. The journalist Clayton Hirst writes it is "the ultimate old boys' network". The rainforest countries were, campaigners believe, then "encouraged" to employ them too, to show they were "serious". So the McKinsey climate desk swelled.

The official rationale for this is attractive. It's essential that REDD money is well spent - and in theory, it is the job of McKinsey to find the cheapest way to save the largest possible amount of forest. Except when Greenpeace looked at what McKinsey was actually advising, their study suggested that is not what is happening at all. McKinsey has invented a "cost curve", which, they say, figures out how best to save rainforests. …