In the past few years, the majority opinion on climate change has changed. There used to be skepticism as to whether climate change was a real, pressing issue. Now a consensus has emerged that it is a crisis with noticeable, tangible damage being done to our environment and quality of life.
One result of this eco-shift is on the part of consumers and investors, who are increasingly holding businesses accountable when it comes to corporate social responsibility (CSR). This goes well beyond asking the fossil fuel industry to transition to greener alternatives. Across all industries, the market is now driven — at least in part — by metrics relating to sustainability.
What Is a Sustainability Consultant?
A sustainability consultant often wears many hats as they advise businesses on methods to deliver their products or services in a sustainable manner — and suggests ways to improve their CSR through areas like green building, renewable energy, waste management, and sustainable development.
A sustainability consultant is an expert on how to advance green-energy policy within a company culture, and how to help ensure more long-term, eco-friendly practices can remain in place.
Consultants champion environmental stewardship, helping businesses look to greener, healthier operating behaviors. They are focused on maximizing profits and reducing an organization’s environmental footprint with doable, repeatable physical and mental adjustments. A sustainability consultant will typically have a background in environmental studies, earth sciences, or adjacent areas.
What Services Does a Sustainability Consultant Supply?
A sustainability consultant supplies a diverse portfolio of sustainability services. One such service is an energy audit. A formal and scientific audit can help reduce your energy consumption, cost, and waste.
An energy audit can guide you to steps such as improving building insulation, switching to energy-efficient lighting fixtures, or replacing a transport fleet with electric vehicles. The outcome of a comprehensive energy audit will reveal concrete metrics on where improvements can be made, and deliver a timeline for return on investment.
As industries move to a circular economy model, discovering innovative ways to reduce waste becomes more important. For example, used cooking oil is helping industries like aviation move away from fossil fuels and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Your sustainability consultant will research these industry-related trends, write reports, and lead presentations to help launch similar sustainability initiatives for your company. For example, manufacturing is seeing a trend in simplifying the supply chain. Transporting raw materials and finished goods more efficiently is one way to achieve that goal.
CSR practices affect employees, customers, and the communities in which companies operate. In industries like construction, manufacturing, oil and gas, sustainability consulting firms can help identify and examine those effects. This ensures health and safety not only in the workplace but in the broader environment. Environment, health, and safety is a key topic in sustainability consulting. Other services include:
- Sustainability strategy optimization
- Green business-building ideas
- Decarbonization transformation practices
- Sustainable investing recommendations
How Can a Sustainability Consultant Save a Company’s Money?
How can the principle of saving money intersect with the drive toward sustainability? Going beyond the energy component, a sustainability consultant can perform a full sustainability review. This is a natural first step to establishing the most effective money-saving strategies. Below are some cost-saving measures that have proven effective in specific areas.
Of course, energy use will be one of the most focused on—because many sustainability consultants start with an energy audit. Here are some suggestions they might make:
- Intelligent lighting — Motion-activated and occupancy-sensor lighting can cut energy costs dramatically in sporadically used areas like meeting rooms, bathrooms, and storage rooms.
- Computer replacement — Most large companies now subscribe to a lease model for their computing needs. As computers come up for replacement, transitioning to laptops will lower energy costs since they consume less power.
- Unplug electrical devices — Modern devices have a standby mode that continues to draw power even if the device is turned off. Similarly, a rechargeable device wastes power after the battery is fully charged. Simply unplugging electrical devices can save money.
Everyone is familiar with the now-classic reduce, reuse, and recycle approach. A sustainability consultant can elevate your organization toward a more advanced model of cost savings that build on those basic sustainability principles, with routines like these:
- Reduce paper, printing, and copying — Ink and paper are among the most wasteful products in any office. Replace printing with a digital equivalent, such as email, whenever possible. Even if a document must be printed, double-sided printing or copying leads to cost savings.
- Switch to reusable packaging — All products are shipped in packaging and that costs money. Switching to and recycling reusable materials saves both cost outlay and waste disposal expenses.
For most sustainability consultants, a big goal is to get your offices to use less water. Here’s are two common recommendations made:
- Installing motion-activated water taps — Whether they’re used for washing or drinking, taps left running are adding unnecessarily to your water bills.
- Water-efficient equipment — From the snack-room refrigerator to the bathroom, your office space has equipment that consumes water. As these will eventually be replaced, look for the most efficient replacement model available.
How Can a Sustainability Consultant Save a Company’s Scarce Resources?
Energy and water are just some resources that are becoming scarce. The COVID-19 pandemic has contributed to a global shortage of microprocessors. Whatever your industry is, you face — or will eventually face — the challenge of resource scarcity. This might be as simple as scarcity of land or as complex as lack of expertise in your industry.
A sustainability consultant can help you navigate the procurement challenges of sustainably sourced supply chain materials. They can also help you source less expensive substitute materials, or help identify better manufacturing techniques to put scarce resources to better use.
Which Sustainability Steps Help Your Company’s CSR?
A sustainability consultant may start by auditing your workflow, supply chain, or other critical operations. Assessing and continuously monitoring supply risks, such as geopolitical trends, is another step toward sustainability. Effective mitigation strategies, such as increased on-hand inventory or partnering with additional suppliers, can then be put in place as a next step.
Further steps involve reducing or eliminating waste. Your sustainability consultant can help establish a return policy that improves customer satisfaction and loyalty. It can also ensure appropriate waste disposal. Even better, it can allow you to recycle those scarce resources.
Hiring a sustainability consultant is one of the best investments you can make for the future of your organization. Not only will you see long-term cost-saving measures, but you will also help ensure the social and environmental future of your business.