In 2011, we started a small summer project that looked at our competitors. We wanted to see how Strategic Sustainability Consulting stacked up against the dozens of other companies in our field. What we quickly realized was that the field itself was amorphous and changing almost every day. New players were cropping up every week, a wave of mergers and acquisitions swept over many of the most notable companies, and more than a few of the small consulting firms folded in the wake of the recession.
In short, it was impossible to keep up with every development in the sustainability consulting industry. We therefore decided to take a big step back—to look instead at the trends shaping the rapid evolution of our field. Our goal was to try and understand three things:
- How “sustainability consultancies” are defined in today’s marketplace.
- What the current field of sustainability consulting firms look like, in terms of size, location, services, and clients.
- Where the sustainability consulting industry was headed in the next 3-5 years.
By the end of the project—which ballooned into a year-long endeavor, we had reams of data and analysis to inform our own internal positioning. We also decided that it was too good to keep to ourselves. So for the next few months, we'll be sharing our findings with readers of our blog.
We first undertook to create a simple list of sustainability consultancies—generated from a Google search for terms like, “sustainability consultant,” and “sustainability consulting,” and “sustainability consultancies.” That search was supplemented by knowledge from the SSC Consultant Network, who contributed suggestions via email, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. The final list included approximately 250 companies.
Then, we chose roughly three dozen companies to thoroughly research. Using a template that we developed for competitor analysis, we looked at each company’s size, location, clients, services, marketing approach, and testimonials. The vast majority of this information was gathered through publicly available sources like their website, LinkedIn profiles, Twitter streams, news articles, press releases, and company blogs. We searched for both positive and negative information online, such as “Company X reviews” and using keywords such as ethics, fraud, professionalism, knowledge, and expertise.
Once we had a good handle on what the “top players” were doing, we expanded our review to include the other players on our list. We conducted a streamlined version of the competitor analysis process, looking primarily at company-generated information such as their websites and social media platforms.
At the same time, we spoke with a number of sustainability consultants about their perspective on the industry, and invited them to share their experience with companies on the list. We received a substantial amount of confidential information—both positive and negative—that helped us see past what the companies were saying about themselves online to what was truly going on behind closed doors. Obviously, we took all of this information with a grain of salt, and have not included company-specific confidentially-provided information in this report. (But we did want to disclose it here, because it shaped our thinking on more general trends in the market.)
We did not conduct interviews with the companies themselves. For one thing, trying to schedule that number of meetings was a logistical nightmare. We also wanted to focus on what the “marketplace” (online materials, industry reputation, etc.) thought about specific sustainability consultancies—not what their internal leadership might say over the telephone.
We compiled the hundreds of pages of research into a spreadsheet that allowed us to look at trends and parse out common themes. That analysis allowed us to state things like, for example, 48.4% of sustainability consultancies offer stakeholder engagement services.
While we are not sharing the raw data behind our research, we share below a list of 100 companies (out of a total of approximately 250) included in our industry review. This list should give readers a clear idea of the types of companies that we investigated, and also serve a source of future discussion.
Jennifer Woofter, founder and president of Strategic Sustainability Consulting, is the primary author of this report. Her broad knowledge as an industry insider provided insight into major trends shaping the sustainability consulting industry. Her extensive network of sustainability colleagues, at both large and small sustainability consulting firms, lent extra perspective on the research findings.
Allison Ries, marketing and outreach manager at Strategic Sustainability Consulting, crunched the numbers from the annual SSC survey of sustainability consultants. Her analysis of 3-year trend data (as reported by individual sustainability consultants) gave us a reality check against the press releases, company blogs, and news articles that occasionally showed a very different picture of the industry.
Richard Walsh, independent sustainability consultant and green building practitioner, was the primary analyst responsible for gathering data on individual sustainability consultancies. His research was the foundation upon which this document was written, and SSC is deeply grateful for his contribution.
Some of the Companies that We Researched
The following list is a representative sample of the
approximately 250 sustainability consulting organizations that were reviewed in
our analysis. The industry is changing rapidly, with new players entering the
market, mergers and acquisitions, and firms closing up shop—so we expect this
list to continue to evolve quite dramatically over time.
- 100% Green
- A Green Footprint LLC
- A World Of Green
- ABC Carbon
- ADC Partners
- AltaTerra Research
- Balanced Scorecard Institute
- Blu Skye
- Blue Ocean NOW Group
- Blue Springs Energy
- Braun & Zurawski
- Brown and Wilmanns Environmental, LLC
- BSC Sustainability Services
- Business for Social Responsibility
- Campus Climate Solutions
- Carbon Foresight
- Cascadia Consulting
- Centre for Sustainability and Excellence
- Clearstream Solutions
- Common Current
- Creative Cause Marketing + PR
- David Gardiner & Associates, LLC
- Davis Langdon
- Eco Coach
- Ecos Consulting
- Ecologix Group Inc.
- EcoStrategy Group
- Ecosystem Capital, LLC
- EHS Strategies, Inc.
- Energy Advantage Inc.
- Environmental Intelligence Inc.
- ERS Global
- Esty EP
- Ethical Impact L3C
- FairRidge Group
- Five Winds Consulting
- Fluid Market Strategies
- Good Company
- Green Canary
- Green Consultants
- Green Impact
- Green Marketing, Inc.
- Green Order
- Green Research
Keep an eye on our blog for more on our findings and insights!
If you are a new or aspiring sustainability consultant and would like to take your practice to the next level, check out the 2013 Consultant Cohort : a 6-month intensive program hosted by the International Society of Sustainability Professionals (ISSP) and led by SSC President Jennifer Woofter.