Thierry Malleret is the managing partner of the Monthly Barometer – a succinct predictive analysis provided to private investors, global CEOs and some of today’s most influential opinion and decision-makers. He and his partners also run the Summit of Minds. Thierry has written several business and academic books, has published four novels and just co-wrote COVID-19: The Great Reset with Klaus Schwab (founder of executive chairman of the World Economic Forum)
One word that describes you?
Perseverance (it trumps intelligence).
Which is your favourite part of your job and which part do you enjoy the least?
My favourite part: interacting with interesting people from all walks of life and discussing their ideas. The one I enjoy the least: dealing with IT problems.
What is your personal indulgence?
Single bean dark chocolate!
Before Covid-19, climate change activism sparked the support of millions worldwide, unified in their demand for governments and companies to take urgent action and reduce carbon emissions to net zero by 2025. Has Covid-19 lessened or increased the urgency in 2020? How are you making a difference?
For a range of reasons that we explain in COVID-19: The Great Reset, the pandemic has accelerated the global commitment to embrace net 0 as fast as possible. I make a difference in reinventing my business model (see below) and in walking the talk to the maximum possible extent. As one limited example, my family and I will travel abroad for pleasure 80% less than we did in the past. As for business travel, we’ll reduce it as much as we can.
What are your thoughts on carbon offsetting and your actions?
Carbon offsets are important and can be effective but they are not sufficient because they don’t address the root of the problem that is the lack of clean transportation options (in the case of travel). Apart from the fact that carbon offsets do not always bring the intended benefits (for reasons ranging from corrupt markets to trees not growing as well as anticipated), they tend to reduce the incentives required for the drastic reduction in emissions needed to contain global warming and environmental degradation. The fundamental problem with carbon offsets in an industry like travel & tourism that provides goods that are “discretionary” by nature is the following: they convey the idea that “practically sacrifice-free” solutions (paying an offset). The only viable long-term solution is to travel less, i.e. to consume fewer flights.
My actions: my core business (the Monthly Barometer) emits almost 0 carbon by virtue of being a small digital boutique with very limited use of servers. The Summit of Minds is more carbon intensive because it brings participants from all over the world to different locations. Until now, we suggested to our participants that they offset their travel and potentially did so on their behalf. We now think this model is broken: moving forward we’ll organise hybrid Summits of Minds: bringing local participants to one location and inviting transcontinental participants to join us online.
Given that the current economic crisis was triggered by a public-health crisis, what changes can we expect to the travel industry that persist long into the future?
Concerns about COVID will soon mutate in concerns about the environment. Many T&T industry players hope that the situation will return to normal when the pandemic is over, but in my opinion this is wishful thinking. The implications of the necessity to be ‘sustainable’ will rapidly evolve from a vague commitment not to make a complete mess of travel destinations to the imperative of actually improving them. The global calls to “build back better” (the economy, our societies, industry) are amplifying, and the tourism industry, with a growing awareness of all the negative externalities it produces, will be subject to ever greater scrutiny. This is the reason why some industry leaders, investors and activists are now promoting the idea of “regenerative travel”, aware that a return to the status quo is impossible. At the core of regenerative travel is the simple idea of leaving the places we visit better than we found them. It therefore entails a set of measures as diverse as choosing quality over quantity, ensuring fair income distribution, paying attention to nature, culture, human health and local communities.
How are you giving back to local communities and how are they benefitting from this?
The best and most obvious way to give back to your local community is to treat your employees fairly and equitably (by having for example a differential between the highest and lowest salaries that is reasonably low). The same goes for all the people you interact with on a regular basis: be respectful and treat them fairly and equitably.
In your travels, would you support hotels and tourism companies that are not committed to rigorous sustainability? How do we make them more accountable around sustainability?
No, I would not. The most efficient way to make such hotels and tourism companies more accountable is to apply economic pressure by not supporting them or paying for their services until they change their behaviour.
What 3 changes must happen NOW to get people to change attitudes and behaviour?
IT MUST BE NOW that we make the right consumption decisions, more respectful of Mother Nature, and that we resolutely invest in our natural assets.
Can we have wellness without sustainability (defined as wellbeing for our world)?
No we cannot. Wellbeing and sustainability are two facets of the same coin. As Klaus Schwab and I argue in COVID-19: The Great Reset, it is impossible to dissociate them. The reason is simple: our individual well -being and the wellbeing of our planet (which depends on how sustainable it is) are inseparable.
Should governments make sustainability mandatory?
They will! As environmental problems become so acute as to pose an existential threat to humankind, governments will have no other choice than to make sustainability mandatory.
In your book COVID-19: The Great Reset, you argued the “We are at a crossroads. One path will take us to a better world: more inclusive, more equitable and more respectful of Mother Nature. The other will take us to a world that resembles the one we just left behind – but worse and constantly dogged by nasty surprises. We must therefore get it right.” Will we get it right? What will this look like?
I think and hope we’ll get it right. Quite surprisingly COVID-19 has made us collectively aware of the critical importance of nature, forcing us to realise that the wellbeing of the planet and our own individual wellbeing are the two sides of the same coin: one cannot exist without the other.Of course, there’ll be resistance to change and many vested interests doing their utmost to ensure that we only tweak the system at the margin, but what gives me confidence is this: the young generation will activate the Great Reset. The Milenials and particularly Gen Z are determined to enact (radical) change.
What is your personal favourite place to stay that’s trying hard to be accountable and transparent around sustainability with no green-wash allowed?
My favourite place to stay is the fabulous Mont-Blanc range. It’s as sustainable as it can be and cannot fall victim of greenwash. You can travel within that place with just a small tent, or of you prefer you can stay in a hut: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mont_Blanc_massif
It is also my office!
What legacy would you like to leave behind from your leadership?
I don’t consider myself as a leader. Apart from exceptional individuals who left an imprint on humanity, the idea that you can leave a legacy behind when you are a CEO or an entrepreneur seems ludicrous to me.
Who is your greatest influence? Best advice you have been given?
Ivan Turgenev: “Take what you can yourself, and don’t let others get you into their hands; to belong to oneself, that is the whole thing in life” (First Love). And more prosaically: Whatever the setbacks, you just have to keep going.
Your best advice to the young generations concerned about their future?
Scan all your horizons.
Regrets are backward looking. I try to focus on what comes next.