Types of Sustainability Consulting Organizations


Today we're continuing our review of the "state of the sustainability consulting industry" by looking at the different types of organizations that offer sustainability consulting services.

At Strategic Sustainability Consulting, we break the industry down into the following categories:

  • Big Consulting Companies: these are large firms (1,000+ employees, usually multinational) that provide a wide range of services to clients—most of whom are also large companies. Sustainability is a branch or division of the company, and not the main focus. Example: Deloitte.

  • Boutique Consultancies: these are smaller firms that were built specifically to provide sustainability consulting services. They cater to a wide variety of clients with a wide range of price points. Example: Strategic Sustainability Consulting.
  • Non-Profit Organizations: these non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have a primary goal to raise awareness and advocate on a particular topic (generally environmental), and have developed services to offer sustainability consulting (and consulting-like) services. Example: World Wildlife Fund.

  • Freelance or Solo Practitioners: the most popular option for new sustainability consultants, going solo allows individuals to get some project experience under their belts. Some choose to stay freelancers—operating under their own name or under a company name (but with no employees), and others go on to join an established consultancy as part of a team. They will often team up on a project-by-project basis with other sustainability consultants and consultancies. Example: Lucinda Brown (STETconsulting).

Big firms will often have dedicated teams for auditing and verification, technical support, and sustainability strategy. Smaller firms, however, will generally focus on one core area (e.g. sustainability strategy) and build alliances with other partners to deliver associated services (e.g. sustainability marketing).

Check out our past blogs “What Sustainability Consulting Is (and Isn’t)” andState of the Sustainability Consulting Industry” to learn more about the background for these findings.

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.