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Why is Environmental Consulting Booming?

In this article we’ll explore what environmental consulting actually is, why it’s experiencing a boom, and what the benefits are for companies who choose to become more environmentally conscious.
Business
2023-05-05T00:00:00.000Z
en-gb
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Environmental consulting has seen steady growth over the last few decades and is predicted to boom over the next few years. With increasing regulatory pressures as well as demand from consumers, investors and employees alike, businesses are being asked to reconsider their operational practices and to implement sustainable solutions that help to reduce their environmental impact. Such transformational change requires a highly specialised expertise, one which can be provided by environmental consulting firms. 

👉In this article we’ll explore what environmental consulting actually is, why it’s experiencing a boom, and what the benefits are for companies who choose to become more environmentally conscious.

First up, what is environmental consulting?

Environmental consulting is a broad term that covers a wide variety of different environmental goals. Often it refers to a type of compliance consulting, whereby the consultant works to ensure that the organisation is in compliance with environmental regulations for example. However it also covers consulting services that advise more generally on environmental and sustainability issues such as waste management, recycling, flood risks and other effects of climate change.

An environmental consultant can be summed up as a professional who works to reduce the environmental impact of an organisation's operations through the use of environmental data.

Environmental consultants operate in a variety of different industries and may also go by the job title of environmental field consultant, environmental project manager, environmental audit consultant, environmental professional, or environmental analyst. 

In addition to the various different job titles given to the role, there are an equally wide range of sub-specialities that environmental consultants may choose to specialise in. For example an environmental consultant may specialise in contaminated land assessment, energy, geotechnical investigations or engineering, environmental management systems, green claims, compliance, impact assessment, flood risk, asbestos management, carbon footprint management.

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When did environmental consulting emerge?

Environmental consultancy is a speciality that started to emerge in the late 1980s and 1990s. In the decades prior to this companies were subject to very little, if any, regulations when it came to environmental issues. Hazardous waste was simply dumped in the landfill and pollution wasn’t really of concern. 

Slowly scientists and other professionals began to speak out about the effects of unregulated industries, and called for regulations and guidelines to better protect the environment. This led to the realisation across many industries that more needed to be done to help manage their impact. Environmental consultants helped to fulfil this need and began to provide services to different organisations, advising on how they could operate in a more sustainable fashion and reduce their pollution and waste.

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Why is environmental consulting booming?

Environmental consulting was once a relatively niche market, however business has been steadily growing for the last few decades and the market has witnessed a boom in recent years. What’s more is that the trend doesn’t show any signs of slowing down. Research shows that environmental consulting saw a growth rate of over 2% between 2016 and 2021, but that this is expected to rise to 10% by 2026. So what’s behind this upward growth trend? 

Regulatory pressure as well as general public awareness and demand for more environmentally conscious companies means that businesses have to set increasingly ambitious goals when it comes to sustainability and the environment. In a lot of countries across the world, governments are starting to regulate this area, requiring that businesses take action to calculate their environmental impact and to take measures to reduce it. In Europe for example, regulations like the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD) and the Sustainable Finance Disclosure Regulation (SFDR) place increasing demands on companies operating within the European Union to provide information on sustainability measures and targets. 

Boards of directors are therefore now having to implement sustainability and carbon emissions goals as part of their operational strategy. This means that they need advice that extends beyond technical or regulatory matters to strategic planning and operational transformation.

Environmental consulting encompasses a huge scope of diverse work, from understanding regulatory requirements, to developing operational strategies, to the actual implementation of the strategy (something that varies hugely depending on the company and the operational changes). Environmental consulting is a highly specialised area that involves anything from financial modelling to climate engineering. This is why companies are increasingly turning to environmental consulting firms. 

Perhaps one measure of the potential of the environmental consulting market is the fact that many of the world’s top management firms - firms like BCG, McKinsey, Bain etc - are now starting to operate in this area. 

The need for environmental consultants is big, and expected to only get bigger as governments tighten regulations and decarbonisation demands. Companies with poor track records on the environment expose themselves to significant business risk. Customers, investors and even employees increasingly demand that organisations step up to the plate when it comes to climate considerations. However, many businesses lack the talent and know-how to enact the required changes to their operations.

Why is environmental consulting important?

Environmental consulting is an increasingly important and sought after service that not only benefits business, but also brings with it a host of other advantages. Let’s take a look at some of these in more detail:

Reduced business risk

Companies with poor track records when it comes to the environment expose themselves to significant business risk (for example risk of litigation, risk of falling foul of regulations, and risk of supply chain disruption). Customers, investors and even employees increasingly demand that organisations step up to the plate when it comes to climate considerations. However, many businesses lack the talent and know-how to implement the required changes. 

This is why environmental consulting can be so useful. Expert consultants are able to provide the know-how that allows companies to create more sustainable practices, and reduce their exposure to environmentally harmful practices. 

Competitive advantage

Consumers are increasingly switched on when it comes to the environmental aspects of a product or service, and many actively seek out those which minimise their impact and harm. This is why companies who engage in an organisational transformation, and who take steps to decarbonise and implement sustainable practices help to set themselves apart from the competition.

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Opportunity

Sustainability and environmental considerations are actually creating business opportunities. A recent report by the consulting firm McKinsey estimates that an investment of around 9.2 trillion USD per year will be required if we’re going to have any chance of hitting the global net zero targets by 2050. 

This is an incredible redistribution of finances and represents a huge business opportunity for organisations who are ready for the change. New technology and practices will need to be developed, creating new markets for companies to operate in, and opening up new streams of income.

Community benefits

Environmental consulting encompasses a wide variety of activities, but at the heart of all of them is protecting and improving the environment, something which ultimately also benefits the community too. 

Take the example of the environmental consultant who is hired to carry out a site audit on a new piece of land that a company is purchasing. If the environmental consultant determines that there is hazardous pollution of chemicals, action can be taken to clean up the site and ensure that it's safe for use. 

Environmental consultants may also carry out a variety of other assessments depending on the type of project they’re working on - for example they may test groundwater or soil for contamination, or assess a building for asbestos etc. When pollution and contamination is cleaned up, it’s not just the environment who benefits, it’s the local community too.

Environmental awareness

Environmental consulting helps to get the word out and raise awareness of environmental issues amongst businesses. Even where regulations exist requiring a company to take action, it’s often an environmental consultant who helps the company to develop and implement an attainable strategy. This encourages businesses to reconsider their relationship with the environment and educates those working in commercial environments on their impact.

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Environmental impact

Environmental consulting aims to reduce the impact of human activity on the environment. Whether this is helping companies to put in place a plan of action to reduce their environmental impact or carrying out environmental assessments that result in remedial actions, the advice and work of an environmental consultant creates a positive environmental effect.

The development of best practices

By helping companies to implement effective management plans, and by ensuring that they meet industry standards, Environmental consultants ensure that best practices are followed. Their work also aids in the development of best practices. Environmental regulations and technology are constantly evolving - it’s the job of an environmental consultant to keep abreast of this.

What about Greenly? 

At Greenly we can help you to assess your company’s carbon footprint, and then give you the tools you need to cut down on emissions. Why not request a free demo with one of our experts - no obligation or commitment required. 

If reading this article has inspired you to consider your company’s own carbon footprint, Greenly can help. Learn more about Greenly’s carbon management platform here.

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