04/03/2012 10:18 am ET Updated Jun 03, 2012

Working for a Good Company vs. Doing Good Work

Based in London, Jenny Davis-Peccoud serves as the global leader of Bain & Company's Social Impact Practice. Having spent most of her career at Bain, Jenny has been able to watch the evolution of the firm's investment in social impact from the incubation and subsequent launch of Bridgespan in 2000 to the significant expansion of Bain's own Social Impact practice and corresponding activities over the past 10+ years. Jenny and I spoke recently about Bain's partnership with Bridgespan and Bain's social impact investment strategy.

With the 2000 spin-off of Bridgespan as an independent social change consultancy, what pro bono work does Bain continue to do?

We've continued to do a lot of pro bono work and invest in major partnerships at Bain & Company. And we have a strong, collaborative relationship with Bridgespan, including 'externships' and shared partners. We believe as a firm in reinventing our industry. Our investment in Bridgespan was one way we did that -- and it was created as a separate organization, as a nonprofit that understands what nonprofits need. But we also continue to invest in our own pro-bono work with organizations committed to driving change in their sectors.

So, how much pro bono does Bain do each year?

Bain does about 80 pro bono projects a year, and 60% of those projects have people 100% allocated for at least several months. We provided over $40 million of pro bono consulting services in 2011 alone.

How do you know you've been successful in your pro bono engagements?

Even for our corporate clients we systematically go back and ask if they were satisfied with Bain's work. We use the same process with our pro bono clients as well, and see high satisfaction rates. Secondly, Bain tracks its success by results, and so we are driven to try to understand the impact and outcomes of our work. I've personally been involved in many homeless projects in the UK and we've had 5,000 homeless people return to full time employment over 10 years.

If I'm a nonprofit leader interested in engaging Bain, how do I do that?

We select our pro bono clients as we select our corporate clients. We look for bold, ambitious leaders who are looking to challenge the status quo, have big aspirations for major changes, and are keen to see results. As a firm, we work with Fortune 1000 companies and mid-market firms that have potential to be those leaders over time. To give you an example, in our education practice we work with TFA (Teach For America) - which is like the Fortune 100 of corporate America. But we also work with Students First, with a bold ambitious leader like Michelle Rhee, and it's more like a start up. We believe both of them have tremendous capability. Beyond education, we've partnered with Endeavor, an innovative organization focused on using entrepreurship to effect change on a global scale. And these are just a few.

Do they come in through a partner at the firm?

Again like our corporate clients, we're very intentional about who we want to work with and who has the most potential to make a tremendous impact in this field. While we do have organizations introduced to us through partner relationships, we still put them through the same screen of "will they have an impact?" We are drawn to organizations that are passionate about driving change in innovative, meaningful ways.

What are you seeing in terms of the demands of current employees?

It is very important for our staff to use their business training to benefit the community. While Bain's focus is on for-profit clients, we encourage social impact and work to make sure that it can be an integral part of the Bain experience. Something very appealing to our people is that they can, for example, take leadership roles in nonprofit organizations early on in their careers through our pro bono work, or they can do externships to get hands-on experience with non-profits. Our employees are very proactive about their involvement as well. We provide a lot of opportunities to get involved, but it isn't all top-down: much of what we do is 'grassroots' and driven by an individual's passion.

What roles does social impact play in the decisions of recruits?

We've done some research on importance to employees of CSR and sustainability. About 20% will proactively make a decision on these things and will be involved when they're here - so they are deciding where they want to get the best opportunity. The rest want to know that the company does these things and is making a difference in the world. Either way, we hope that recruits see that Bain is a place in which they can have impact in the social sector.

Speaking of the 20% who want to personally engage, what are they looking for specifically?

When we go out to business school campuses, we talk a lot about the various ways that people can get involved at Bain. The majority of people in the room are excited about pro bono and externships, and others want to get involved in our internal "green team" environmental efforts or work directly in the community. At Bain & Company, we provide many opportunities for our people to engage in the social impact work that they are passionate about while continuing to further their professional career in consulting.

How do you see pro bono evolving globally?

The US is clearly ahead, and that gets back to the historical anchoring of philanthropy in the American cultural mindset. Asia is quickly catching up. Europe is developing more slowly - with the London office as our most developed office in the region. All of our offices believe in the importance of social impact, however, and I'd expect our pro bono efforts to continue growing.