Should You be a Sustainability Consultant's Only Client?

When you hire a sustainability consultant, how much of their undivided attention do you want? Well, the answer probably depends on what kind of engagement you're looking for. 

On the one hand, it's great to be the sole client (or one of just a few) because you'll generally get lots of time and effort -- either because 1) it's a big engagement and you're hiring them "full time" for the engagement period or 2) they are building up their business and are especially keen to keep you happy for a later referral/testimonial.

On the other hand, it's also great to be working with a sustainability consultant who is also juggling other client projects. For one thing, it tells you that you're working with someone in high demand -- that others see the value in what they're offering. It also usually means that the consultant has developed processes and systems that ensure a smooth and efficient engagement -- meaning that you'll spend less of your time "figuring it out" as you go along.

Now before you read too much into the graph above, take note of these caveats:

  • Almost half of the sustainability consultants surveyed have less than 2 years of experience.
  • Many are doing sustainability consulting part-time, while they hold down another job.

When you screen out the newbies and the part-timers, it looks like most sustainability consultants are working with 3-10 clients each year. That's the same range we see at Strategic Sustainability Consulting, where most of our consultants are working on a handful of projects each year (and the organization as a whole works on somewhere between 10-15 different projects annually).

What do you think? Does having more of a consultant's undivided attention make for a better engagement? Or do you prefer to be one of a series of engagements that your consultant is tackling. Consultants -- we'd love to hear from you too. What would your ideal client workload look like?

Every year, we conduct a survey of currently-practicing sustainability consultants. The chart above shows some of the results, compiled from 2009-2011 survey responses. Interested in learning more about the state of the sustainability consulting industry? Check out our 4-part Sustainability Consulting Masterclass, available online and on-demand.