If your company is looking for a sustainability consultant for the first time, it can be really helpful to spend some time learning about the different types of sustainability consulting services that are available for businesses.
Because there are so many different aspects and approaches to sustainability, it’s just as important to understand what consultants don’t offer as it is to understand the services that they are providing. This can help you understand your sustainability initiatives in the context of what other businesses are doing to set themselves apart as corporate sustainability leaders.
LEED and Green Building Consultants
If you are planning a construction project, you will want to be sure to find a green building or LEED certified sustainability consultant.
Established by the U.S. Green Building Council, LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is the most highly recognized and widely used sustainability rating system for buildings. LEED buildings can receive a rating of Certified, Silver, Gold, and Platinum based a sustainability rating of all aspects of the building. This includes energy efficiency, water use, waste streams, building materials, location and access to public transportation, health and human comfort, and regional environmental impacts.
LEED certification of any level can provide several significant advantages over standard building design for your company and the environment. Beyond their environmental impact, having a LEED certification can reduce building-related maintenance costs by 20% and increase a building’s value by 4% on average. In some areas there may even be local tax breaks or other incentives for LEED certified buildings.
However, the certification process requires specialty training and certification by the U.S. Green Building Council. If you do decide you want to apply for LEED certification, you will be sure to want to find an accredited LEED green associate that will know what is required for certification at all levels.
Sustainability Compliance and Reporting Consultants
Some companies may be required to report greenhouse gas emissions. For example, in California industrial sources, fuel suppliers, and electricity importers are subject to mandatory greenhouse gas reporting requirements developed under California’s cap and trade program. If you fall into this category, you must find an independent California Air Resources Board (CARB) accredited sustainability consultant to independently verify your emissions.
Other companies may opt to voluntarily report their greenhouse gas emissions to private independent organizations. This can help win over investors and provide transparency about sustainability.
The Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) and Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) are the two of the leading emissions reporting organizations. These organizations assess the overall sustainability of companies of private businesses and governments around the world. This is done by looking at their supply chain, water use, ecological impacts, and the broader environmental impacts of their operations. The results are then published on a public database for investors to review. These private reporting organizations also offer accreditation for independent consultants, so if you are interested in sustainability reporting you will want to make sure they are accredited with the right organization for your company.
Supply Chain and Life-Cycle Assessment Consultants
Both supply-chain and product life-cycle sustainability consultants can help you understand the environmental impacts of your products and identify areas of improvement. A product life-cycle assessment (LCA) is intended to be an objective study of the total environmental impacts created from the beginning to the end of your product’s life. It will look at how you acquire your materials (supply chain) and the energy it takes to produce your product. It can also look at any emissions or impacts resulting from your product’s use, end-of-life disposal, and all of the transportation along the way.
By identifying which processes along your product’s life-cycle produce the most carbon emissions, you can target and spot-reduce which areas are contributing the most.
However, it’s important to note that not all LCAs use the same methodologies and are generally not standardized across different consulting firms. Some focus solely on energy, some only look at greenhouse gas emissions, and others consider broader environmental and social impacts. Because LCA methodologies vary so widely, you may want to spend additional time researching what sustainability aspects of your product are important to you.
Sustainability Program and Green Office Consultants
Sustainability program and green office sustainability consultants focus on reducing the environmental impacts that step from company policies, office design, and company culture. This approach engages employees directly in sustainable business practices, helps your company reduce costs, and is shown to improve employee satisfaction and attract purpose-driven talent.
These emissions that are generally not accounted for in LCAs, although they may have some overlap with green building and LEED sustainability assessments. If your company has already addressed building and product emissions, office sustainability programs can be a great way to fill in those gaps that haven’t been addressed.
This is the type of sustainability consulting service provided by Office Climate Solutions. OCS uses life cycle assessment data to quantify the impacts of office sustainability programs.
You can learn more about OCS’s sustainability consulting services and carbon footprint analysis here. You can also request a free analysis here to find out how much your company can save.
Sarah Schwartz is the lead consultant for Office Climate Solutions. She writes about the intersection of sustainability, business, and the workplace.