SSC President, Jennifer Woofter, wrote this post in 2010, but her thoughts are still dead on:
“Sally, in the marketing meeting yesterday, everyone was talking about this ‘green’ thing. I guess our main client wants to know how we’re tracking our carbon footprint,” said Frank, the CEO of Your Business LLC to Sally, the operations manager.
“That’s a coincidence, Frank,” Sally replied. “Just the other day the warehouse employees started some silly ‘green team’ and put recycling bins all over the place.”
Enter Facilities Manager.
“Sorry to interrupt, but did you know we could save $150,000 over the next three years if we get those fancy new energy-saving light bulbs? I need some start-up cash, but with that savings we could buy a couple of new forklifts,” he said.
“Green, green everywhere. We need to circle the wagons on this.” Frank said. “Google it, Sally.”
Poor Sally. If she isn’t familiar with the lingo, the chances of her finding relevant outside consulting help fast can be pretty slim. It’s now more important than ever for her to know what to search for, where to look, and how to make sure the help she finds is the help she actually needs. (Listen up, consultants. This makes it more important than ever for you to be doing your SEO due diligence, as well).
The following are some tips to help you search online for a consultancy that can meet the needs of your firm. First, don’t Google the phrase “go green.” The word is “sustainability” and the search is “sustainability consulting.” If you must, you can also try “green consulting” as many firms have used the word “green” in company names for its ubiquity.
Easy on the “Green” – This overused term isn’t going to narrow down the search enough to find the actual information you need. With more than 190 million hits on ‘go green’ and ‘green my business,’ you’ll spend hours on the Google Monster trying to sort through the “Top 10 Tips for Reducing Your Carbon Footprint” (ride your bike to work, anyone?) and the “Go Green for Just $49.95” scams.
Not Environmental Consulting, Either –We’re trying to protect the environment, right? Yes, and no. Depending on the work you do, environmental consultants probably won’t be able to help ‘green’ your business. Environmental consulting is usually compliance-based consulting, mostly in the real-estate development industry, where the consultant helps a company meet environmental regulations specific to that industry. For example, construction and demolition companies might seek an environmental consultant to help with asbestos hazard assessments. Developers usually seek environmental consultants for watershed assessment or remediation planning. Environmental consultants are generally engineering and science-based, helping your business avoid fines and legal action when doing work on a physical piece of land.
Is it a LEED Consultant? Not really. – LEED consultants work with building owners, architects, engineers, and builders to help design and retrofit environmentally-friendly buildings. You might need one if you are looking to put up a new warehouse or HQ, but unless you’re building or renovating your built space, a LEED consultant probably won’t help.
Sustainability Consulting – Yes! Sustainability consultants are out there to help organizations of all sizes get a handle on and take actionable steps toward what it really means to ‘green your business.’
What is sustainability?
What can a sustainability consultant actually DO for me?
Auditing and Assessments: If you don’t even know what your impacts are, how are you supposed to reduce them? Consultants can take a personalized look at your operations and help you identify issues, goals, and strategies...moving you toward "greenness."
Communications and Reporting: Many companies look a little like the example at the beginning of this post – they know about ‘green,’ and they’re doing some ‘green things,’ but they don’t know how to tell their own story. Sustainability consultants can help an organization report using recognized sustainability reporting methodology to tell a credible story to stakeholders, avoid greenwashing, and use your green power to grow or keep your client base.
Research, Analysis, Training, and Programming: Firms large and small may be greening, but may have reached some sort of roadblock or need some outside help. Sustainability consultants are more than able to take on specific sustainability projects relevant to your business – help you coordinate a LEED retrofit, help you identify KPIs for measuring your corporate giving, help you create an effective green team, help you train your new employees on green company culture, help you develop a green label for your various chemical products, help you redesign your packaging- really help you with ANYTHING GREEN! That’s why you’re paying them, the consultant is an expert or has an expert in his or her network to help you solve these real green problems.
Strategic Planning: Long-term success in sustainability requires that companies take a structured, integrated approach in environmental, social, and financial areas. This usually means re-writing the entire strategic business plan and objectives, and weaving sustainability into the language, culture, and operations of the organization at every level. Sound like a huge undertaking? It is. Sustainability consultants are a great way to ensure that your company is using best-practices and not re-inventing the wheel in sustainable strategic planning.
Where do I find a sustainability consultant? Well, if you’re reading this, then you’ve found us (required shameless plug).
Start: Write down some thoughts – assessment, communications, packaging, LEED, budget. This will help you better know what you are looking for. Read this post about why it’s important that you know what you’re looking for when picking the firm that is right for your business: There is no one-size-fits-all sustainability strategy, so getting service that is right for you is a priority.
Then, e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org because we’re obviously the one! Or use the Greenbiz.com sustainability consulting search engine at http://professional-services.greenbiz.com/. This tool will help you come up with a list of tens to hundreds of consultants vying for your business.
Finally, click here to read about some key things that every sustainability consultant should know. If they don’t know about the GRI, for example, they’re not qualified to help you. After you’ve browsed a few websites, make a short list and then go back and do some in-depth research. Look at the testimonials, the past clients, the services, and the consultant network. Definitely don’t hesitate to contact the company with your questions via e-mail or telephone.
Yes, we believe that we can help everyone and you should have already called us, but the truth is, it is up to you to find the right firm to meet your unique sustainability consulting needs.
This summer, we're giving sharing the best articles from the SSC website, going back eight years. The article above was originally posted on September 23, 2010. We'll be back in September with all new content. In the meantime, if you're interested in learning more about SSC, or working with an SSC consultant, please contact us!