Beyond the Big Four: 12 Sustainability Consultancies to Watch in 2016

422486575_de1d636a93_zBy Shannon Houde

The job-search process can be lengthy and overwhelming with so many job boards and LinkedIn groups to troll through on a regular basis. But the key is actually getting clear who your target audience is (consulting, corporate, NGO, etc.) and then making “friends” with human contacts within your target companies.

Eighty percent of your job search time should go toward live networking and 20 percent to jobs boards. If you have narrowed down your target to wanting to be in consulting for a more boutique agency, then reaching out to make a contact on the inside can help you in the process, but only if you are smart about your approach.

Here’s our list of 12 consulting firms specializing in sustainability in the U.K. and the U.S., depending on your focus area.

1. AccountAbilityThis management consultancy is headquartered in London and has offices in New York, Dubai, Zurich and Riyadh. They focus on research, standards and advisory services in the areas of corporate responsibility and sustainable development. Specialties include: Sustainability strategy and reporting; responsible competitiveness; materiality assessment; stakeholder engagement; corporate responsibility; sustainable development research.

Size: Fewer than 50 employees

2. BSRBSR works with large multinational companies, government agencies, and global and local NGOs and has offices in Copenhagen, Guangzhou, Hong Kong, New York, Paris, San Francisco, Shanghai, and Tokyo. Services include: human rights; reporting and communication; stakeholder engagement; strategy and integration; sustainable communities. Industry focuses: Energy and extractives; financial services; food, beverage and agriculture; information and communications technology; manufacturing; media and entertainment; power and utilities; transport and logistics; travel and tourism.

Clients: Hitachi, Lockheed Martin, General Electric, Nike

Size: Between 100 and 200 employees

3. ContextThis transatlantic advisory firm has offices in London, Los Angeles and New York. They focus on three core areas, including corporate sustainability, communications and writing, and business strategy and consultancy. Specialties include: Communications; reporting; brands; benchmarking; research and analysis; stakeholder engagement; employee engagement; digital and design.

Clients: Burt’s Bees, FedEx, Jaguar, Morgan Stanley

Size: Fewer than 50 employees

4. Corporate CitizenshipFounded in 1997, this consultancy has offices in London, New York, San Francisco, Santiago and Singapore works with clients on both a local and global level. Specialties include: Assurance; benchmarking; community investment; corporate foundations; environment; impact measurement; reporting; research and futures; stakeholder engagement; supply chain; sustainability strategy; thought leadership.

Clients: Unilever, Lafarge, Golden Agri-Resources Ltd.

Size: Fewer than 50 employees

5. Forum for the FutureThis London-based independent NGO focuses on sustainability development mainly in the food and energy sectors. It also works in additional sectors such as shipping, finance and digital technology. It was founded by sustainability pioneer, Jonathan Porritt, who is still very involved. Specialties include: Sustainability strategy; futures; system innovation.

Clients: 3M, Heineken, Coca-Cola, Ebay

Size: Between 100 and 200 employees

6. FuterraThis women-led London-based firm has additional offices in Stockholm, New York, San Francisco and Mexico City. It is primarily a marketing and advertising agency, specializing in sustainability branding and creative. Specialties include: Sustainability; corporate responsibility; communications; creative; branding; behavior change; employee engagement; strategy; communications.

Clients: Kering, Forest Stewardship Council, SABMiller

Size: Fewer than 200 employees

7. Impactt LimitedThis global management consultancy based in London and has additional offices in UK, China, Bangladesh, India and Spain, and a network of Impact associates across Cambodia, Ethiopia, India, Kenya, Malaysia, Poland, Romania, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Turkey, Thailand, Vietnam and others. Specialties include: ethical trade, human rights, labour standards and international development

Clients: Apple, Marks & Spencer, Fairtrade Foundation, Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI)

Size: Fewer than 50 employees

8. Salter BaxterThis international sustainability strategy and communications consultancy is mainly based in New York and London but has over 100 offices in 22 countries across the world. Specialties include: strategic advisory work; branding; sustainability and corporate social responsibility (CSR); stakeholder engagement; corporate reporting; digital communications; corporate issues management; materiality.

Clients: L’Oréal, BP, Bupa, Lego

Size: between 50-200 employees

9. SustainAbilityFounded in 1987 by John Elkington, this B Corp has offices in Europe and North America. The company uses a hybrid consulting and think tank model that allows it to reconcile ambition with pragmatism when it comes to building a more sustainable economy. Their services include research, stakeholder engagement and strategy development.

Clients: Shell, Bayer, Skoll Foundation, United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP)

Size: Fewer than 100 employees

10. UscreatesThis London-based design and communications consultancy focuses on three core areas – user insight, service design and communication design. Specialties include: Prototyping; co-design; qualitative research; behavior change insight; brand or campaign creative, market research; social impact measurement; service design capacity building; film and animation; websites and apps.

Clients: South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust (SLaM), Nesta and Open Data Institute, The Children’s Society

Size: Fewer than 50 employees

11. VolansAlso a B Corp founded by John Elkington, Volans has been in operation since 2008. Having dubbed the period from 2016 to 2025 theBreakthrough Decade, Volans works to help organizations move beyond incremental change and break through the sustainability barrier on this very real timeline. Services include research, advocacy and advisory, and Special Projects.

Clients: HP, Allianz

Size: Fewer than 20 employees

12. XynteoHeadquartered in Norway, this advisory firm works globally and takes a collaborative, partner- driven approach to its projects. Xynteo is founder of the GLTE partnership and a driving force behind The Performance Theatre.

Partners: Shell, Ikea Foundation, MasterCard, UNDP

Size: fewer than 100 employees.

This list doesn’t include some of the environmental certification players (DNV, SGS, URS), the international development consultancies (AECOM, DAI, Mott McDonald) or the built / engineering consultancies (Arup, BRE, Ramboll, Atkins, Arcadis), all of which are also playing in the sustainability space.

Once you’ve narrowed down a list of three consultancies to target based on geography and industry focus, you should take some time to:

  • Build a networking strategy (increasing your chances by 60% of landing that dream job),
  • Turn your “personal pitch” into a compelling and relevant story, and
  • Get clear about what you want from each contact and how you could also help them before you reach out.

Then connect with all of the top sustainability firms on social media, stay on top of their latest postings and check LinkedIn for connections you may be able to leverage to help make an introduction. Once you find a key contact, arrange a face-to-face meeting with them to start to build your relationships in person, not only virtual. Good luck!

For some bespoke advice and training on networking and developing your personal brand or pitch, get in touch.

Photo by chrismetcalfTV, via Flickr

Shannon Houde is founder of Walk of Life Consulting, the first international career and executive coaching business focused solely on the impact, sustainability, international development and corporate responsibility fields.

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