The best sustainability programs have one thing in common: They integrate sustainability into core business practices.
For technology companies, sustainability is much more than compliance. Sustainability programs help avoid costs and risks, save money (via energy, water, and waste), build a positive brand image, attract and retain employees, and reduce a company’s environmental footprint.
For example, sustainability programs at Opower, a cloud-based software company, have already saved more than eight terawatt-hours of electricity. This equates to more than $1 billion in utility customer savings and enough energy to power all of the homes in New Mexico for a year.
So whether you’re looking to gain a competitive edge or reduce your company’s environmental impact, a sustainability consulting firm can provide invaluable practical expertise and broad industry perspectives.
Here are four frequently asked questions - and answers - to get you moving toward your sustainability goals.
1. What are the sustainability must-haves for the technology industry?
Each industry is unique and so too are the sustainability goals. For the tech industry, the goals may range from creating green products, to ensuring more products and bi-products are recyclable to forming partnerships in order to impact larger topics such as emissions.
The must-haves of most sustainability projects within the tech industry include:
- Defining the connection points with sustainability that drive value for YOUR business.
- Prioritizing the most critical risks and opportunities for a focused and committed approach.
- Balancing internal (operational efficiencies, supply chain resiliency) and external (transparency and disclosure, stakeholder expectations) needs.
2. What types of services do sustainability consulting firms offer?
As a result of unique industry and company needs, sustainability consultants should take a custom and comprehensive approach to providing relevant, practical, and innovative solutions.
Below is a sampling of the service offerings you may find:
- Defining your sustainability strategy and monetizing the business case – understanding your company’s unique risks and opportunities, monetizing business value, and outlining a roadmap to achieve short- and longer-term goals.
- Optimizing your facilities – systematically evaluating opportunities to manage water, energy, carbon/GHG, and waste footprints and developing programmatic strategies.
- Understanding community context – managing your dependencies on local natural resources and infrastructure for energy, water supply, and watershed conditions.
- Prioritizing and engaging stakeholders – mapping expectations from investors, NGOs, customers, and activists and pursuing strategic partnerships.
- Improving your product design and influencing your supply chain – going beyond product compliance to design products that deliver greater customer benefit with fewer resources and extending sustainability strategies up and downstream your supply chain.
- Effectively telling your sustainability story – managing growing transparency and disclosure expectations from sustainability reporting to third-party disclosures to CDP, key customers, and other relevant organizations.
Here’s a detailed list of sustainability competencies and services.
3. What are the benefits of hiring a sustainability consulting firm versus using in-house resources?
You know the old adage--two heads are better than one, and four heads are better than two. It’s not just a saying, it’s proven, and it’s why consultants exist in every part of the business world.
Specifically, here’s what you can expect when working with a sustainability consulting firm:
- Flexibility. Whether you want a dedicated team of consultants in North America or one specialist in Germany, partnering with a sustainability consulting firm allows you to get the level of guidance you need, where you need it.
- Unmatched expertise. From regulatory experts and management consultants to renewable energy specialists, consulting firms employ professionals who have specialized skill sets and experience. This ensures that sustainability recommendations not only meet all regulations, but company goals, too. Consultants also bring broad-based perspectives from working with multiple clients, as well as their targeted experiences with specific industry segments such as technology.
- Cost-effectiveness. Building an in-house team of experts with the variety of experience a consulting firm has can be cost-prohibitive and time consuming. Given the dynamic nature of sustainability, it is also challenging to stay abreast of trends, innovations, and horizon issues.
4. Our company has never hired a sustainability consultant, where do we start?
You probably have a number of questions, and our best advice is to reach out and connect with a sustainability consultant. This will allow you to understand their service offerings, how they work, and if your teams are a good match.
Based upon our experience we have found that sustainability strategies must be tailored to individual companies under the philosophy that “when the economics work, the environmental and social benefits will last.” Implementing this in practice requires a partner who will spend time to understand your organization, connect sustainability to broader goals and aspirations, and define an approach that will drive business value. In general, sustainability is not prescriptive or compliance driven, but rather a journey that is made easier by finding the right “navigation” partner.
To learn what sustainability consulting services may be right for your technology firm, learn more about Antea Group and its Sustainability Consulting.