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Choose the Best Sustainability Consultant for Your Company

| Tuesday September 1st, 2009 | 8 Comments


We all know what we need to do to make our companies more environmentally friendly: use less energy, water, and paper, travel less and make less garbage. But yeah, it’s easier said than done especially if you’re in a carbon intensive business like manufacturing or energy production. What’s the company without a lot of time or expertise to do? Well, hire someone, of course! Who do you hire, and how do you know what to look for? Here’s the lowdown on the biggest and smallest players in the newest consulting game and how to separate the wheat from the formerly-unemployed-newly-rebranded “Sustainability Consultant.”

First, you need to know what you are looking for. Different consultants have different kinds of expertise:

Sustainability Strategy
These are the guys to hire in 2 situations: first, you don’t even know what you need to know. They can advise you about all the different options available to make your business more sustainable and help you set sustainability goals. Second, these are the folks you want if you have made a lot of basic improvements like installing low flow faucets and energy savings devices, set the copier to default to double sided, and you’re looking for a way to integrate your sustainability initiatives into your overall business efforts. Because this step can seem a bit nebulous (what am I actually getting for my money?), this is the place to either take a personal recommendation (3P’s are at the bottom of the post) or go for the name. Many consultants are also writers of well regarded books on sustainability, like Hunter Lovins and Andrew Winston. In addition to being respected by their peers in the sustainability community, these folks have their own brand to protect, so they are going to do their best to make sure your company is well taken care of.

LEED:
LEED consultants are the ones to hire if you want to make sure that your new construction project or retrofit has the best chance of achieving LEED certification at the level you want (platinum, gold).  They can also advise you on the expected costs to hit each level and help you make the best choice for your goals. Look for individuals who are certified LEED AP (accredited professional), and ask for references from jobs they’ve completed.

Greenhouse Gas Management:
Hire these folks if you work in a carbon intensive industry (manufacturing, distribution/transportation, or energy) and you are concerned about how pending cap and trade legislation will affect your company. Look for someone who has experience registering carbon emissions in your sector with the Climate Registry, the California Climate Action Registry or in conjuncture with the European Union Emissions Trading Scheme.

Energy Efficiency:
If you know you’re wasting a lot of energy through outdated fixtures, appliances and single pane windows these are the consultants who can help you figure out which upgrades will give you the highest ROI. They can also help you navigate the state and federal incentive programs to figure out which ones you’ll qualify for. These services are best suited to companies large and small in food services, hotels, retail, and manufacturing: any company with a lot of lights and appliances could benefit from these upgrades. Ask prospective consultants to give you an estimate on the amount of money the job will save you, and make sure to check some references.

Waste and Recycling:
Ideal for product manufacturers and retailers, these consultants can help you ferret out waste in your manufacturing process, helping your company save money on both materials and disposal costs. Ask your prospective consultant about their past clients, the projects they implemented, the challenges they encountered, and the final financial results. If you manufacture abroad, make sure you consultant has some experience in the country or region where your factory is.

Communicating your Sustainable Message:
This service is for companies who have made some sustainability improvements and are looking to make more. These consultants are for you if you have spent some time looking internally and you want to shift your focus to the external branding of your sustainable practices.  You want to share their sustainability message with existing customers, use it to bring in new customers, and might be a bit fearful of being accused of greenwashing. Look for a consultant with a rigorous background in all of these types of consulting, connections in the sustainability community at large and a strong understanding of  the benefits and drawbacks of engaging in social media.

All in all, it comes down to working with someone you can trust. Here are some friends of 3P (in safe, favorite-less alpha order) who we feel confident recommending:

Center fo Sustainability & Excellence
Green Impact
GreenIt Group
Fairridge Group

ISOS Group
Natural Capitalism Solutions

Natural Logic
Padosa
Scott Cooney
Steve Puma

Readers: what are your tips for selecting a sustainability consultant? Do you have any great names to share?

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  • Pingback: Green Impact listed in Choose the Best Sustainability Consultant for Your Company « Green Impact

  • http://www.cleanagency.com Heidi

    I know of one! The company I work for,
    Clean Agency.

    Established in 2002 and based in Los Angeles, Clean is a researched-based outreach firm specializing in strategic planning, environment and economic research, integrated marketing and product packaging. Leading in the development and communication of green industry initiatives on a global scale, Clean creates customized solutions for nationally recognized brands and innovative entrepreneurial companies, enabling them to improve their economic and environmental performance simultaneously. For more information visit http://www.cleanagency.com or call (323) 255-9178.

  • http://www.sustainablebizconsulting.com/ Suzanne

    Sustainable Business Consulting

  • http://www.sustainablebizconsulting.com/ Suzanne
  • http://www.sustainablebizconsulting.com/ Suzanne

    Sustainable Business Consulting

  • http://www.sustainablebizconsulting.com/ Suzanne
  • Brian Williams

    Why does this list not include Verdigris Group?

    Verdigris Group is a great Sustainability Consulting firm specializing in LEED Advisory, Green Building, Organizational Sustainability and Energy and Carbon Management that has been ranked #2 globally by Brown-Wilson Group and the Black Book of Outsourcing, and tops the Top Ratings from Green Collar Research (http://www.greencollareconomy.com/Green_Directory/Top_Rated/).
    An excellent organization, carbon neutral since 2007, they are most certainly walking the talk.  Check them out at: www. verdigrisgroup.com

    • Brian Williams

      For clarification, Verdigris Group was ranked #2 globally in the “Green Building & LEED Consultants” category in The Green Survey, conducted by
      Brown-Wilson Group and Black Book Research – an annual survey ranked
      by Total Client Nominations for clients
      and users from 95 countries determining Consulting Service Providers’
      pro-environmental initiatives from the perspective of their client
      experience.
      These
      research results are recognized as the most extensive and
      representative perception study of organizations, validated by 1,338
      unique company respondents from service users around the globe between
      January 1 and March 1. Over 7,000 individual nominations were received
      during the survey.

  • Holly_burns

    I enjoyed your article Jen and was hoping to get in touch with you about a Corporate Sustainability Conference The Greenbrier Resort is having March 18-20, 2012.  I look forward to hearing from you and have a good evening!

    Holly Burns
    holly_burns@greenbrier.com