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“We’re pretty optimistic about the economy in general as we get to the latter half of the year, and certainly stimulus should help accelerate that”: BCG CEO

Rich Lesser, Boston Consulting Group CEO joins the Yahoo Finance panel with the latest on the Stimulus Outlook.

Video Transcript

AKIKO FUJITA: Let's bring in Rich Lesser. He is the CEO of Boston Consulting Group. And, rich, Jessica there laying out a number of priorities that has been laid out here in that $1.9 trillion stimulus package. What's the knock-on impact that you've been talking to your clients about, if this relief package survives in its current form?

RICH LESSER: Well, I think there's still a long way to go to know exactly what the relief package will be. I'll just start with the thing that is the most important now-- everything we can do to get beyond the pandemic as fast as possible, anything that will accelerate distribution of the vaccines, uptake of the vaccines is not only going to save lives, first and foremost, it's going to accelerate the rebound in the economy, and put Americans back to work, and just create the foundation for the future.

So for me, everything in the stimulus related to helping us get beyond the pandemic is job one and urgent. There's certainly a lot of Americans suffering, a lot of American businesses that are struggling. And we need to also go out of our way to help them. I think most businesses believe additional stimulus is appropriate. The levels, you'll get a wide range of views on. To be honest, our view is that we're optimistic about the economy in general as we get to the latter half of the year. And certainly, stimulus should help accelerate that.

ZACK GUZMAN: Yeah, Rich, you've been pretty outspoken about the role of businesses in these discussions, particularly when it comes to climate change, but also on the stimulus front here, when you look at those relationships-- we obviously saw President Biden talking with business leaders, including Jamie Dimon, about that earlier this week-- so I mean, what's the worth of the political capital and really pushing on this versus some of the other issues-- and maybe it's not a zero-sum game?

RICH LESSER: Well, it's for sure not a zero-sum game. We have a wide range of issues we need to tackle in this country, and it's not you either do one or you do the other. I think stimulus is the issue right now, because we're living in the midst of a pandemic. It's hurting a lot of people in health and in livelihoods.

But as soon as we get beyond this, I hope our attention is going to turn to some critical longer term issues-- whether it's around climate, whether it's around infrastructure, whether it's around education, the digital divide. we are not short of issues that we need to tackle where I think business can play an extremely constructive role to try to look for solutions that are practical, that can work, and that can maybe help bridge some of the intense divide that we see in Congress right now.

AKIKO FUJITA: On the climate issue, I know you've been a key advisor to the CEO of climate leaders-- or the Alliance of Climate Leaders. And you recently pushed out a letter calling for more aggressive moves to reach net zero emissions. When you think about the conversation around this issue, how do you think the calculation for a lot of these firms has changed, given not just the climate warming, but also given that this administration has made it pretty clear they plan to go after businesses if they don't treat the issue more seriously or come up with more mitigation plans?

RICH LESSER: So I think you have three things coming together at once. And you see it not just in the US, but around the world. First, I think the urgency of climate change continues to get more and more attention. And I think that companies are realizing in a world where they are talking about purpose, they're talking about supporting multiple stakeholders, you can't even start on that agenda unless climate is a big part of it.

I think, second, companies are realizing from the standpoint of their own business models, their own ability to thrive in the medium and long term, incorporating climate into their strategies and plans-- whether it's Mary Barra's announcement from GM, or whether you see many other companies is critical. And third, I think the political equation has changed, and it's changing around the world.

It's changing in the EU, it's changing in China, and now we see it changing in the US. And if you put those three elements together-- multistakeholder orientation, business strategy and need to thrive in the long term, and the political calculation-- I think many companies realize now is the moment you need to step up more. And we're hearing that and seeing that.

ZACK GUZMAN: Yeah, especially in a time where we've been so divided-- interesting to see all these other interests coming together around that issue. But the CEO of Boston Consulting Group, Richard Lesser, love having you on-- appreciate you stopping by.