SURVEY: Trends in Sustainability Consulting (Part 4)

This 4 part series in our blog is coming to a close but that doesn’t mean you are too late to join us in this year’s State of the Industry Survey!  It’s easy and the results are invaluable: industry insights you can use to prepare for next year.  It’s an important time to take the sustainability consulting pulse so please make sure to participate before the survey closes on November 9th!

We wanted to wrap up by taking a look at 2010 findings related to key competencies and highlight some of the interesting takeaways.  Last year we found that much of your time as a sustainability consultant wasn’t attributable to any one particular service (stakeholder engagement, green building, water, waste, supply chain labor/human rights, energy/carbon/GHG, marketing/communications, training/facilitation, product design/LCA, etc.).  In fact, there were very few people spending more than 75% of their time on one specific issue or targeting one specific service.  Most were splitting their time between a few different areas.  Wait … should we stop to ask ourselves if this is the way to go though?  Are you splitting your focus too much, and what might be the possible impacts of doing this?  Last year, after reporting our findings, we suggested that you begin to define your specialty – it’s not easy being all things to all people!  Knowing this, in 2011 did you begin to identify a core service with maybe just a few complementary supplements?  Did you start to hone in on what your leading strengths are that you’d like to concentrate on moving forward? 

Another interesting change in 2010 was that most of your potential clients had a budget in mind before they contacted you.  This is probably a huge reflection of the economy:  If there isn’t a budget you aren’t getting a large amount of phone calls to even start these conversations.  So (as highlighted in part 2 of our series) even though the amount of clients and initial inquires might be dropping off, the contacts consultants are getting are of a much higher caliber … this is a great time- and resources-saver for everyone involved, we promise!

In our experience, the clients that are ready to hire have executives involved in the consultant-seeking process, are able to specifically explain their goals/motivations (think Walmart scorecard!), have a clear deadline, and are able to ballpark a budget.  Remember your time and KNOWLEDGE is valuable; don’t give it all away in an effort to get a project going if there are some major elements to this equation missing.  Sure, every situation is a bit different, but it’s important to establish those relationships where true partnerships can be formed … and you can spend more time being the confident industry leader your clients need!

We know that in sustainability consulting your time is valuable so we’ve taken measures to make sure that every question asked in our study hones in on what’s important and gets to the point quickly, get started now (if you are a currently practicing sustainability consultant) while the survey is fresh in your mind!  Already taken the survey?  Please pass it along to your colleagues.  The more responses we get, the more robust the answers!