Managing environmental change

How is the environmental consultancy sector helping Britain go green at a time of change and austerity? David Carr finds out

Credit: years after the trough of recession, how is the UK’s environmental consultancy sector supporting organisations struggling with the fast evolving green agenda?

With the help of our annual survey of environmental, sustainability and carbon consultancies, we shine a renewed spotlight on one of Britain’s key green industries. This special report will also explore prospects for the country’s wider transition to a greener, low-carbon economy as seen through the eyes of consultancies.

Several key messages emerge and will be discussed in greater depth.

First, growth in demand for environmental consultancy services will not resume seriously until the economy kicks back into gear. Put simply, green without growth is not good for anyone’s business.

Second, the still-gathering squeeze on public spending is likely to lead to a significant reduction in local and central government spending on consultancy support. Given the acute need for government leadership of the next phase of Britain’s green drive, this is potentially worrying.

Third, the UK’s promised green energy revolution, which is supposed to involve £110bn of investment in the next ten years, is not as visible to the consultancy sector as it should be.

A majority of survey respondents foresee growth in this area, but at a slower rate than might be expected given the enormity of the transition that is supposed to be happening.

Finally, while it may be obvious to some it is worth restating: adjusting to and complying with legislation remains the key driver for environmental consultancy services. If the government started to unpick the existing framework of green laws, as some fear could happen through its red tape review (ENDS Report 435, pp 48-49), it could unleash serious trouble – and not only for environmental consultancies’ balance sheets.

With these factors in mind, it is clear that the year ahead will be another tricky one, for many UK environmental, carbon and sustainability consultancies.

Nevertheless, some market growth is in prospect and those organisations most adept at meeting clients’ needs will be best placed to seize the lion’s share of it. ?

ENDS Consultancy Market Guide 2011

A special report, sponsored by RPS(energy and environmental consultants)