We’re at the point in the evolution of business sustainability where many companies – especially large, global concerns – have built internal capacity to deal with issues in environmental and social responsibility. We now have “Chief Sustainability Officers” and sustainability teams in some large enterprises. But it remains abundantly clear that most companies do not have this in-house expertise and need to reach out to independent experts to tackle the challenges and exploit the opportunities in sustainability. These companies face the challenge of selecting someone from among what is still a relatively-small group of competent advisors in:
So, what should a senior- or mid-level manager look for when choosing an outside consultant? Are there really differences that matter? Is it the same as looking for consultants to help in other areas? Here’s my take on the top five factors to consider when choosing a sustainability consultant that will best fit your business:
I think it’s perfectly acceptable that all the subject matter expertise you need not reside technically in the firm that you hire. In today’s world, many professionals have developed reliable, dynamic networks of people and/or firms that extend their reach in important ways. In fact, you might find it advantageous (financially and otherwise) to find that the water impact expert you need is not going to be on the firm’s payroll but will be selected from among 4 or 5 that have close affiliations with the consultant.
That’s just five of many important qualities to look for in a sustainability consultant. Maybe you can think of more or have your own list. But I think that these are fairly crucial to having a good, and hopefully great, experience in the world of sustainable business.