26% of Sustainability Consulting Firms Offer Product and Value Chain Services


We're continuing our journey through 13 different services offered by sustainability consultants, and today we're focusing on the #10 most popular type of offering:

10. Product and Value Chain Services (26.2%)

Minimizing the use of materials and natural resources, and optimizing logistics, while maximizing profits.

As the world population approaches 7 billion people, it will become increasingly important to make the most of all of the world’s resources, and many consultants are helping companies do just that by aiding them in areas of life cycle analysis, supply chain optimization and product design.

This is certainly a broad topic and encompasses consultants that offer their clients anything to do with products – including the ability to analyze their supply chain, product development, make their manufacturing processes as sustainable as possible, and allow them to improve their bottom line while also reducing their impact on the environment. Here are a few common ways you'll see it packaged:

  • Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) Services: these consultants help clients map each stage of the product life cycle and identify inputs/outputs associated with each step. Once tabulated (usually using one of a handful of LCA software tools available on the market today), the results show the environmental impacts (like climate change, eco-toxicity, human toxicity, etc.) associated with the product. Some LCA engagements look only at the carbon emissions associated with the product, while others take a much broader view.
  • Eco-Optimization and Green Product Design: these services may overlap with LCA engagements, but the key differentiator is that this type of consulting agreement goes beyond simply accounting for product impacts and instead looks at ways to improve (or minimize) those impacts -- both within the client's direct operations, as well as throughout the supply chain. This may be as general as "how do we use less energy in the life-cycle of an automobile" or as specific as "how can we reduce the impacts of our secondary packaging at our Georgia plant"? Consultants in this area may also specialize in green product certification, helping clients to develop and implement sustainability systems required for green product labels (like Green Seal).
  • Value Chain Analysis: Given that about 80% of a product's impacts occur BEFORE the manufacturing plant, it's not surprising that some consultants choose to specialize in the area of value chain analysis. This focus allows consultants to dive deeply into the challenges, risks, and opportunities for improving sustainability (and profit!) by working all along the supply chain of a particular good or commodity. Some consultants will specialize even further, such as those that work specifically in the packaging or logistics field. 

Common Jargon and Terminology: Life Cycle Assessment (LCA), Green Product Design, Product Efficiency, Intelligent Supply Chain, Sustainable Suppliers, Biomimicry, etc.

Where You’ve Seen It: Five Winds, owned by PE International (developers of the GaBi suite of software tools) offers LCA services for a range of budgets and needs. The Biomimicry Guild calls itself "the only innovation company in the world to use a deep knowledge of biological adaptations to help designers, engineers, architects, and business leaders solve design and engineering challenges sustainably."

See the other types of sustainability consulting we've already covered:

Check out our past blogs to follow the “State of the Sustainability Consulting Industry” series:

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.