We have been providing consulting services for over 20 years now, and while sometimes it may feel like it, it is not the “second oldest profession” as some have been known to call it. When to end the relationship with a consultant is a relatively easy decision and usually revolves around one of two events. In the first case, a project is completed and well integrated into the company’s activities. The second may be due to downsizing where usually the first ones in front of the firing squad are the consultants. Far more challenging is determining when to bring in consultants to get the best bang for your buck and to increase the likelihood of success for a project. We pondered this dilemma in terms of sustainability consulting. We ‘consulted’ with our clients, conducted research, and reflected upon our personal experiences. The result is the identification of four key characteristics that collectively present a compelling argument that “it’s time to call in the pro’s”.
- Characteristic One: A Persistent Itch
- Characteristic Two: Knowing there has to be a Better Way
- Characteristic Three: Caring
- Characteristic Four: Willingness to Support
The Persistent Itch refers to a feeling or thought that something needs to be addressed, and while some efforts may have been made, there is still the sensation that more needs to be done. Many of our clients will have already implemented recycling in their staff rooms and developed printing policies, but feel they are just scratching the surface – and they are right.
Knowing that more needs to be done, implies there has to be a better way of conducting business. However, because people are already fully engaged in their “real jobs” it is challenging to carve off the time to do the work required to explore alternatives and make new choices. Some clients have expressed a frustration that while there is much discussion within the work environment and much coverage about sustainability in the media, very little has actually been done to map out a plan that leads to quantifiable results.
People are genuinely engaged in the sphere of influence and care about wanting to change collectively. There are enough people at all levels of the business that are concerned that something needs to be done and are willing to be part of the change. It is not sufficient to identify one person as the “green” person, who then becomes the ‘hall-monitor’ for green practices, the majority of stakeholders need to be willing to commit.
It needs to be recognized that sufficient support will need to be provided to ensure the business or its resources are not overwhelmed by the effort required or not able to actually effect change. In other words, moving a business toward sustainable practices is not done off the corner a person’s desk, or even by a ‘green team’. There needs to be committed support at the board or executive level, along with a willingness to change.
So, if these four characteristics describe your situation, then you are ready to maximize a sustainability consultant’s services. For more discussion on this topic, we have created a Guide titled “When To Call in Sustainability Professionals” available for download.