Posted: Mon 16th May 2022
The UK has set a goal of producing net zero emissions by 2050. Some may argue that this isn't ambitious enough, while others are left wondering how they're supposed to transform their business models to comply with future regulations.
Ultimately, the date has been set. And while it's still a little while away, it’s important to keep it in mind, especially as many of the practices may end up saving businesses money.
What can businesses do?
Astonishingly, just 100 businesses are responsible for 71% of the total global emissions.
With the planet under more and more environmental pressure from the actions of humans, it’s more important than ever to try and reverse the damage. People on the street are doing their bit, but where the real difference can be made is in the business world.
While organisations are becoming more sustainable, sometimes it's not enough, or they don’t have the knowledge within their company to improve. That’s where a sustainability consultant comes in – one who can not only 'talk the talk', but can create an active strategy that targets real issues and delivers measurable results.
Consequently, sustainability consultants are going to be in ever-increasing demand as the net zero emission targets inch ever closer.
What is a sustainability consultant?
In a nutshell, a sustainability consultant is someone who combines their business knowledge and expertise with solutions that lessen or remove a company's environmental impact.
Working with the organisation, the consultant will create policies and processes that champion sustainability. They must balance the needs of a business with the latest laws and what's best for the environment.
Sustainability consultants are ideally placed to visit companies across all industries and help them to reduce their carbon footprint. They will offer solutions that make companies more energy efficient, reduce noise pollution and improve air quality.
Typically, sustainability consultants have a scientific background but also understand the law, budgeting requirements and effective management strategies.
Is a sustainability consultant necessary?
The more companies that start taking responsibility for their carbon footprints, the better. But it would be unfair to expect owners to be experts in environmental affairs.
After all, company owners start businesses in their fields because it's what they know and what they are good at. Being aware of the environmental impact of everything we do is becoming more common, but it doesn't mean everyone is suddenly a specialist.
As a result, the role of a sustainability consultant is necessary as they have dedicated time and knowledge to understand how the environment, law and business processes are intertwined.
The sustainability consultant encompasses knowledge of environmental issues, but also technological solutions and relevant environmental legislation, policy and guidance. It's their knowledge and solutions that will see companies continue to make money as they move towards net zero emissions.
Does sustainability mean lower profits?
Many businesses have been reluctant to 'go green' because they saw the trade-off as making less money.
They didn't accept that there was room for profit and sustainability. But attitudes have shifted and green-focused companies are not only surviving – they are thriving.
For example, Unilever's Sustainable Living Brands are growing 69% faster than the rest of the business, creating 75% of the company’s growth.
Sustainability consultants help to break down and carefully navigate any resistance to change, skilfully influencing decision-makers to see the 'green' light.
What are a sustainability consultant's typical responsibilities?
There is no one-size-fits-all way of increasing a business's sustainability, as they will all have different needs, energy uses, processes and end products or services.
Each project will require custom-made solutions, so sustainability consultants must be flexible in their approach and tailor their services to each client.
Reporting environmental data and strategy development
For most commercial, residential or infrastructural projects, governments make it a condition that environmental surveys are carried out before any work is done.
Sustainability consultants make sure these assessments are completed and can comprehend the data to see where environmental improvements in processes can be made.
They will also be the ones presenting the data to clients and highlighting where changes must be made. These changes may range from overarching approaches to day-to-day organisational changes.
Facilities management and energy efficiency
It isn't a shock that one of the main focuses for sustainability consultants is how their client manage their facilities and energy efficiency.
They work with organisations to see where they can become more energy-efficient, such as by introducing new technologies. Solutions can be as simple as installing energy-efficient LED light bulbs that require a fraction of the energy costs and last up to 50 times longer.
Larger improvements, such as installing commercial solar panels, reduce carbon footprints and allow for surplus power not consumed on-site to be sold back to the grid.
Sustainability consultants will look at all aspects of an organisation's energy consumption and find solutions to make the company's processes and facilities more cost-effective.
The Guardian reported in 2021 that just 20 companies were responsible for 55% of the world’s plastic waste.
This highlights just how wasteful companies can be and why there's a greater need for sustainability consultants to drive change across all industries.
Reducing waste is typically one of the biggest sustainability targets for businesses, and sustainability consultants will work to find ways to produce less waste and recycle more.
Creating strategies for businesses is one thing, but employees across every level of the business must understand how they can contribute to reducing company emissions.
It's the consultant's role to put corporate sustainability into perspective and context for each job role. When staff have a better grasp of the positive impact these new strategies will create, they will be more likely to adopt and accept them.
Creating marketing and sales strategies
In today's commercial climate it's almost as important to shout about what you are doing to reduce your carbon footprint as it is to do so.
Sustainability consultants will guide and assist marketing and sales teams to create compelling and accurate communications, action points and credentials for clients.
They provide all the information marketing teams need to make sure they can generate interest from customers by fortifying the company’s commitment to sustainability.
Plan it with Purpose
A programme designed to help owners of small and medium-sized businesses develop a better understanding of environmental and social issues in the UK. Visit the Plan it with Purpose hub