In an era where environmental, social, and governance (ESG) goals are becoming paramount for businesses worldwide, sustainability consultants have never been more crucial.

These professionals offer invaluable expertise and guidance, helping companies navigate the complex landscape of sustainability challenges while maximizing their positive impact on the planet and society.

This comprehensive guide will delve into sustainability consulting, explore why companies need such a service, and highlight the top 10 sustainability consultants leading the charge toward a more sustainable future.

Whether you’re a multinational corporation or a small business looking to enhance your sustainability efforts, partnering with any of the sustainability consultants outlined below can provide the strategic insights and support you need to thrive in a rapidly evolving world.

Key Takeaways

    • Sustainability consulting helps companies integrate sustainable practices into their operations, supply chains, and business strategy.

    • Top sustainability consultants offer expertise in various areas, including ESG reporting, supply chain sustainability, and strategic innovation.

    • Maximizing value from sustainability consulting requires clear objectives, stakeholder engagement, integration into core business processes, and continuous improvement.

A Background on Sustainability Consulting

Before getting straight to the best sustainability consultants, it’s a good idea to understand what sustainability consulting means to appreciate its role in driving ESG goals. 

Sustainability consulting has emerged as a specialized niche within the broader consulting industry, focusing on helping organizations align their operations with environmental, social, and governance (ESG) principles. 

Sustainability consulting entails advising organizations on integrating sustainable practices into their operations, supply chains, and overall business strategy. Through such action, they can minimize their environmental footprint, foster social responsibility, and uphold ethical governance practices.

One of the critical aspects of sustainability consulting is assisting companies in setting and achieving their ESG goals. Some of these goals may include:

    • Reduce greenhouse gas emissions and waste generation

    • Optimization of the supply chain

    • Minimize water consumption

    • Increase resource efficiency 

    • Invest in sustainability education and training

Once the goals are clarified, sustainability consultants work closely with organizations to develop tailored strategies that address their specific sustainability challenges and opportunities. From there, they craft an action plan that organizations can implement.

As organizations grapple with stringent environmental regulations and disclosure requirements and the growing consumer demand to prioritize ethical and environmentally-conscious practices, the appetite for sustainability consulting has grown exponentially in recent years. 

According to the Sustainability Consulting Market Report by Business Research Insights, in 2022, the sustainability consulting market had a global market valuation of USD 8788.7 million. Over the forecast period, that figure is anticipated to increase at a CAGR of 4.5% to USD 13653 million by 2032.

Global sustainability consulting market size

Image Source: https://www.businessresearchinsights.com/market-reports/sustainability-consulting-market-101462

The same report identified two main market drivers for the sustainability consulting market’s growth: (1) a sharp increase in smart city initiatives worldwide and (2) growing initiatives of businesses to assess their environmental effect and enhance their position in the global market.  

In an outlook from Grant Thornton, the other determined market drivers for sustainability consulting were increasing stakeholder pressure, employee attraction and retention, consumer behavior, investor and regulatory pressure, leadership opportunities, inflection points, and continued market changes.  

The rise of sustainability consulting reflects a growing recognition among businesses that environmental and social responsibility are both ethical imperatives and critical drivers of long-term success. By embracing sustainability, companies can enhance their brand reputation, mitigate risks, attract investors, and unlock new opportunities for innovation and growth.

Reasons Companies Need Sustainability Consulting

There are several compelling reasons companies enlist the help of sustainability consultants:

Complexity of Sustainability Challenges 

Transitioning to a more sustainable business model (SBM) involves navigating many environmental, social, and regulatory challenges. However, when done right, adopting SMB can give businesses the competitive advantages they need to succeed in the modern business environment, including multi-stakeholder management, product or process innovation, and efficient inventory management

Sustainability consultants bring expertise in climate change mitigation, renewable energy adoption, waste reduction, and stakeholder engagement, helping companies develop holistic strategies to address these issues.

ESG Reporting and Disclosure

With increasing pressure from investors, consumers, and regulators to demonstrate ESG performance, companies need assistance collecting, analyzing, and reporting relevant data. Sustainability consultants can help organizations develop robust ESG frameworks, align with reporting standards such as the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) or the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD), and communicate their sustainability achievements effectively.

Supply Chain Sustainability

As supply chains become more globalized and interconnected, ensuring the sustainability of suppliers and partners has become a priority for many companies. Sustainability consultants can conduct supply chain assessments, identify risks and opportunities, and work with stakeholders to drive improvements in environmental and social practices throughout the value chain.

Strategic Advantage

Embracing sustainability can confer a competitive advantage by enhancing brand reputation, attracting talent, and fostering innovation. Sustainability consultants help companies identify strategic opportunities to differentiate themselves in the market through product innovation, circular economy initiatives, or sustainable business models.

Regulatory Compliance

With governments enacting stricter environmental and social regulations worldwide, companies must stay ahead of evolving compliance requirements. Sustainability consultants provide insights into regulatory trends, help companies understand their obligations, and develop compliance strategies to minimize legal and reputational risks.

sustainability diagram

Image Source: https://www.researchgate.net/figure/The-Image-of-the-Triple-Bottom-Line-by-New-Leaf-Sustainability-Consulting_fig3_336373474

10 Best Sustainability Consultants

Now, let’s focus on the top 10 sustainability consultants leading the charge in helping companies achieve their sustainability goals

1. Bain and Company

Bain & Company is a leading global management consulting firm renowned for its strategy, operations, technology, and sustainability expertise. It has been around for over 40 years, helping change-makers across 40 countries define the future. 

Bain’s Sustainability & Corporate Responsibility practice helps clients integrate sustainability into their core business strategies, accelerate ESG performance, and drive transformative change. It takes a three-pronged approach to help its clients reach the sustainability path faster: Discover, Solve, and Scale.

Bain’s sustainability clients span various industries, including consumer products, technology, healthcare, and financial services. For the past couple of years, the company has actively advised clients on net-zero strategies, sustainable supply chain management, climate risk assessment, scaling for sustainability startups, and facilitation of collective action. 

2. EY (Ernst & Young)

EY is a global professional services firm offering assurance, advisory, tax, and transaction advisory services. It is one of the “Big Four” in the consulting world, alongside Deloitte, KPMG and PwC. 

EY offers various sustainability services to help its clients achieve their ESG goals and create value for those they serve. The breadth of its solutions includes the Climate Change and Sustainability Services (CCaSS), which helps clients navigate sustainability challenges, manage risks, and seize growth opportunities. 

Also on offer are sustainable finance services, advising clients on green bonds, ESG investing, and sustainable business transformation. Other notable services include ESG strategy services, supply chain transformation, global renewables, and climate and decarbonization.

3. Boston Consulting Group (BCG)

Boston Consulting Group is a leading global management consulting firm known for its business strategy and operations expertise. Since  1963, the company has been partnering with business and society leaders to address various pressing challenges and help organizations grow and make a positive social impact. 

BCG’s Climate Change and Sustainability services help clients move more quickly toward their climate and sustainability goals by equipping them with sound sustainability strategies, optimizing their resource efficiency, and enabling them to create value through sustainable business models.

BCG has been advising clients on sustainability strategy and transformation, sustainable finance and investing, climate risk adaptation and resilience, decarbonization, nature-based solutions, circular economy initiatives, and sustainable innovation through its sustainability services.

4. Deloitte

Deloitte is a global network of member firms offering audit, tax, consulting, and advisory services. With a presence in over 150 countries, Deloitte is one of the world’s most extensive accountancy and audit firms, employing over 400,000 people.    

Deloitte’s Sustainability and Climate practice has been helping clients progress on their long-term sustainability journey for over 20 years. The company provides consulting in areas like business strategy development, ESG risk management, disclosure and regulatory requirements, sustainability finance, and stakeholder engagement, just to name a few.  

With a network of experts focused on a holistic approach, data-driven analysis, and result-oriented leadership, Deloitte has assisted numerous clients across industries in setting ambitious net-zero targets, improving energy efficiency, and enhancing sustainability reporting.

5. KPMG

KPMG is a multinational professional services firm offering audit, tax, and advisory services. Formed in 1987, the company has been serving the needs of governments, non-profits, and businesses across industries in 143 countries and territories. 

As one of the pioneers of sustainability consulting, KPMG has honed its expertise in the area for over 20 years. Through its sustainability practice, KPM works with diverse tax, audit, and advisory professionals as specialists from different sectors and uses thought-provoking research to deliver tailored sustainable solutions to clients.  

KPMG’s sustainability expertise spans sustainable practices, corporate transparency, sustainable finance, climate risk management, and ESG integration into investment strategies.

6. McKinsey & Company

McKinsey & Company is a leading global management consulting established in 1926. The firm is known for its strategy, operations, and organizational transformation expertise.

The company’s Sustainability Practice supports diverse clients and industries in achieving sustainability goals, from accelerating decarbonization to scaling green ventures. Using its expertise, tools, and talent, McKinsey has helped its clients contribute 80% to global emissions reductions. 

The company has been actively advising clients on climate-related risk management, emissions reduction, sustainable supply chain optimization, and green technology adoption, handling over 1,000 sustainability projects in the past couple of years. 

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7. ERM (Environmental Resources Management)

ERM is the world’s largest consultancy firm specializing in sustainability. It provides clients with expertise in environmental, health, safety, risk, and social issues across the business lifecycle and operational levels. The company has over 160 offices in more than 40 countries and employs more than 4,500 people working on various sustainability projects worldwide. 

ERM’s Sustainability Consulting Service delivers various capabilities to meet different sustainability needs. These include due diligence, certification and verification, data analytics and visualization, decommissioning, decontamination and demolition, impact assessment, and sustainability reporting and strategy, to name a few. 

The company’s 50 years of experience and unique combination of technical expertise and strategic transformation capabilities make it a trusted partner to clients across various sectors, including oil and gas, mining, manufacturing, and infrastructure.

8. Accenture

Accenture is a leading global professional services and solutions provider focused on strategy, consulting, digital, technology, and operations. Regarded as the largest consulting firm by number of employees, Accenture employs more than 730,000 people, providing services to clients in 120 countries. 

Through its range of Sustainability Services, Accenture helps clients tackle their sustainability challenges and gives them the competitive advantage to scale and bring value. Its portfolio includes services like sustainability strategy, sustainable value chains, sustainable technology, net zero transitions, and sustainability measurement, analytics, and performance.  

Accenture has also been at the forefront of sustainable digital transformation, leveraging technologies such as AI, IoT, and blockchain to enable sustainable business practices.

9. FTI Consulting

Founded in 1982, FTI Consulting is a global business advisory firm dedicated to helping clients manage change, mitigate risks, and resolve disputes through expert financial, economic, and operational consulting.

FTI’s ESG and sustainability consultants know the trends driving the adoption and implementation of sustainability in the corporate landscape. Using subject matter expertise and authentic data, FTI provides clients with impactful, end-to-end ESG and sustainability advisory, from risk identification and goal setting to roadmap development and strategy implementation. 

The company’s ESG and sustainability capabilities are far-reaching, spanning climate change strategy, sustainable finance/taxonomy, net zero strategy, quantification impact, energy transition, regulatory reporting, diversity, equity, inclusion & belonging, community engagement, environmental justice, compliance programs, data management and controls, and cyber, data protection and data privacy. 

10. Ramboll

Ramboll is a global engineering, design, and consultancy company based in Denmark. Its expertise lies in providing sustainability, energy, and environmental management solutions to clients and partners across 35 countries. Since 1945, the company has strongly advocated creating sustainable societies. More than 18,000 Ramboll experts deliver sustainable solutions for governments and companies across industries. 

Ramboll leverages its expertise, insights, innovation, and creativity to provide Sustainability Services that help clients drive improvement, develop new business models, create infrastructure, mitigate climate risks, and achieve carbon neutrality.

Its capabilities include engineering and design, architecture, environmental and nature-based services, management consulting, ESG and sustainability advisory, planning and project management, health, safety and risk, society and social value, and operations and asset management.

Ramboll has been involved in several high-profile projects around the world, including the EvO building in Manchester, Bishan Park in Singapore, and the SPIC Binhai North offshore wind farm in China. 

Maximizing Value from Sustainability Consulting

To maximize the value derived from sustainability consulting, companies should:

  •  
    • Set Clear Objectives: Clearly define sustainability goals and metrics to measure progress towards achieving them.

    • Engage Stakeholders: Involve stakeholders across the value chain to ensure buy-in and alignment with sustainability initiatives.

    • Integrate Sustainability: Embed sustainability considerations into core business processes, from product design to supply chain management.

    • Drive Continuous Improvement: Regularly review and update sustainability strategies to adapt to evolving challenges and opportunities.

Conclusion

Sustainability consulting is pivotal in helping companies navigate the complex landscape of environmental and social challenges while unlocking innovation, growth, and resilience opportunities.

By partnering with the top sustainability consultants highlighted in this guide, companies can accelerate their journey towards a more sustainable future, achieving both business success and positive societal impact.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is sustainability consultancy important for businesses?

Sustainability consultancy is vital to businesses as it helps them integrate sustainable practices into their operations, reduce environmental impact, meet regulatory requirements, and enhance their corporate reputation as socially responsible organizations.

What services do top sustainability consultants offer?

Top sustainability consultants offer various services, including sustainability and corporate strategy, financial advisory, environmental impact assessment, risk management, supply chain sustainability, carbon footprint analysis, and sustainable product development.

How can a business benefit from hiring a sustainability consultancy firm?

A business can benefit from hiring a sustainability consultancy firm by gaining access to the expertise of professionals with experience in sustainability, receiving tailored advice on sustainable business practices, and improving their overall sustainability performance and corporate responsibility.

What distinguishes the leading consulting firms in sustainability?

The leading consulting firms in sustainability are known for their thought leadership, commitment to sustainability, experience working with clients across various industries, and dedication to creating a more sustainable future. They often have tens of thousands of dedicated professionals and an extensive global reach.

Are there independent firms that focus on sustainability consulting?

Some independent firms focus solely on sustainability consulting and provide expertise and advisory services to businesses looking to improve their sustainability performance and integrate sustainable practices into their operations.

What is the significance of sustainability and corporate responsibility for businesses?

Sustainability and corporate responsibility are significant for businesses as they contribute to long-term success, positive public perception, enhanced brand reputation, and the ability to attract environmentally conscious consumers and investors.

How do top sustainability consultants help with private equity and financial advisory?

Top sustainability consultants provide private equity and financial advisory services by assisting businesses in assessing environmental, social, and governance (ESG) risks and opportunities, integrating ESG factors into investment strategies, and improving sustainability performance to attract ESG-focused investors.

What is the experience of leading sustainability consulting firms?

Leading sustainability consulting firms often have decades of experience in financial advisory, sustainability strategy, and corporate responsibility, with a proven track record of assisting businesses in creating sustainable value and addressing environmental and social challenges. Many of these firms were founded in the 1960s and have a global presence. 

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