Environmental consultants ride out recession

The number of environmental consultancies operating in the UK continued to increase over the past two years despite the recession, according to the third edition of ENDS' Directory of Environmental Consultants.1 Recent legislation has largely sustained the boom, but green initiatives by business are also helping to keep the consultants employed.

The first edition of ENDS' Directory listed 125 environmental consultancies. By 1990 this had increased to 225. This year, the figure is higher still at 339, with another 30 or more, predominantly small, consultancies not listed in the Directory.

The sector now has a turnover of about £400 million, according to figures presented in a separate market analysis.2 It employs more than 9,000 professionals carrying out about 19,000 contracts per year.

The market analysis, which is based on in-depth questionnaires completed by the 339 consultancies, is believed to be the first of its kind for the sector. It contains more than 50 figures graphically displaying facts and figures about the sector to help consultancies plan their business. Key findings include:

  • More than 80% of consultancies reported growth during the past year, and over 90% expect growth to continue in the coming twelve months despite the recession. However, some have been hit by the economic downturn.

  • One in two firms are so confident of their prospects that they expect their turnover at least to double by 1997.

  • Water pollution, contaminated land and environmental assessment are the three top work areas for consultancies. Local authorities and oil and chemical companies are the top clients.

  • The main factor sustaining growth in the sector is legislation, in particular the Environmental Protection Act 1990, the environmental assessment rules, and the clean-up introduced in the water industry under the Water Act 1989.

  • Consultancies are also benefitting increasingly from voluntary action by businesses. Firms planning to implement the British Standard on environmental management systems, BS7750, and the proposed EC Regulation on eco-auditing are calling in consultancies to assist them. Many are also feeling the pressure of corporate purchasers implementing policies to "green" their supply chains.

    The Directory provides full-page listings for each of the 339 businesses, an account of what to look out for when seeking an environmental consultancy, and eight appendices to help the user locate the right consultancy. New to this edition is a matrix which graphically presents each consultancy's experience in each of 12 service areas within 18 industry sectors.

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