Say the words ‘Leo Johnson is a partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers’, and it
sounds as unlikely as predicting that Boris Johnson was going to be elected
mayor of London would have done a year ago. But it is true. The mayor’s younger
brother is now a partner at the world’s biggest firm after it acquired the
sustainability consultancy he founded.
For an undisclosed sum PwC announced last month that it had bought
Sustainable Finance Ltd (SFL), founded in 2003 by Leo Johnson along with Matt
Johnson’s expertise is sustainability strategy, policy development, training
and risk management. In fact, risk management seems to be a bit of a Johnson
speciality, especially the pitfalls of falling over bits of legislation
governing what companies can and can’t do to the environment. In an easily
obtainable piece of film on the internet he tells an audience of businessmen
that government is second rate as an environmental regulator.
‘The government is being replaced by a series of new regulators who have been
connected into the system and it’s these guys who are starting to make life
complicated for your company because they are monoline.
‘They have one agenda: “I will sabotage your plant if you are killing my
fish, I will remove insurance, I will picket your product”.’
And his agenda is big. Nothing less than helping put in place the
‘fundamental social and environmental changes’ that he believes the economy
And for that he needs the backing of a big organisation. ‘I don’t believe
that we could have been involved in the rewiring of the economic system without
a company as big as PwC.’
Leo’s delivery is not quite the linguistic acrobatics we are accustomed to
from his older sibling, but watch the film and you see he possesses a penchant
for dramatic flair when it comes to public speaking.
Those who have met Johnson say he is passionate about his subject, that he is
charismatic and that he leverages the Johnson family charm with unreserved
The one thing they don’t say about him is that he is a bumbler.
What’s going to happen…
Among the qualities SFL has to offer is not just expertise, but a client list
of wealthy banks HSBC, Barclays,
Standard Chartered, Société Général and the World Bank among others.
Credit crisis or not, PwC always like to have big international financial
institutions on its client list.
The firm will also want a professional in charge who will be able to wrest more
fees from them.
Which brings us to billable hours. It’s anybody’s guess whether Johnson is
the kind of individual who responds well to centrally imposed targets. If he is
anything it is an individualist who likes to do things his own way. Whether that
sits well with the rigid, disciplined regime normally associated with a Big Four
firm, only time will tell.
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