Last week, 20 senior business leaders from the UK’s environmental consultancy sector converged at Environment Analyst’s Business Leaders’ Forum (BLF) in London to discuss the challenges and disruptors they face over the next few years. On the agenda was how to secure, and communicate, the long-term value of environmental consultancy and the role digital disruption will play.
The perception of value is highly subjective. But it was clear the BLF peer group collectively feel environmental consultancy is undervalued when it is compared to other advisory services such as management consultancy and legal and accountancy professions.
In a lively debate, attendees attempted to understand why a management consultant can charge 30-40% more for their services, when compared to a similar grade environmental consultant. This led the BLF to explore supply and demand economics; what "value" really is; and the importance of project managers and business leaders in securing value. They also questioned if EC business leaders really understand their risk profile and whether an alternative cost model is needed.
The changing face of the digital revolution also yielded interesting discussions. Attendees grappled with some big questions. Can an SME innovate faster than a large firm? Is the potential to save clients money placing the sector’s topline revenues at risk? Or will it improve profitability by freeing consultants from monotonous, repetitive tasks? They questioned whether some clients, and developing markets are ready for digital innovation. And they discussed how digitisation and roll-out of cloud-based operating systems is really the unsung hero of the "revolution".
Finally, the BLF contemplated what environmental consultancy may look like in the next ten years and if it will even exist in its current form. Will management consultants like PwC and KPMG dominate the sustainability advisory space while law firms sweep up regulatory compliance services? Or will the entry of advisors which typically charge higher fee-rates serve to raise the inherent value of the wider EC service offering? And what role will there be for a technical professional in a digitised, automated world which will become increasingly dominated by AI?
Over the next few weeks, Environment Analyst will issue a full insight report exploring the topics and discussions raised during the BLF in more detail, available for all corporate members.