Finding a sustainability expert to help with your organisation’s carbon footprint can be a little like the wild west. It’s hard to know who can be trusted and who are more like carbon cowboys. When setting out your path to Net Zero Carbon, you don’t want to feel anxious about whether you could later be accused of greenwashing due to not getting the most accurate and credible solutions. We consider what are the key factors to discovering who will give you watertight long-term solutions.

Why Work with a Sustainability Consultant

Your carbon status matters. According to our recent research, 99% of business leaders care about sustainability but only 15% of SMEs have achieved a Carbon Neutral status. This significant gap in intention and action might be due to 48% feeling confused by government and industry guidance. That’s why organisations look to sustainability consultancies for knowledge (45%), credibility (39%) and experience (36%). As you commit to long-term environmental targets, you’ll need expert advice in the early stages to help you clearly understand your starting point, and then work with a trusted provider to help you accomplish what you set out to achieve.

How to Choose Your Sustainability Consultant

Your success in achieving your targets can rest on the consultants you choose. Here are some non-negotiables a credible consultant should cover:

– Strategic Data Collection

A sustainability consultant who gives a carbon footprint figure based solely on your financials are not doing their research. Your consultant should collect comprehensive data from site visits and meetings with people inside and outside your company. Your footprint report should cover all of the important aspects of your business, addressing your direct and indirect emissions at every stage in your supply chain.
A strategic approach to data collection is needed to make sure you gather quality information so that you can reduce and offset your emissions precisely. If you overestimate your footprint calculations, there is a danger that you may need to go back and recalculate your baseline as the integrity of your data becomes questionable and prevents you from reaching Net Zero. It’s worthwhile partnering with a trusted provider to help gather this information so that you can effectively plan and prepare a sustainability roadmap that is founded on robust data.

Provide Certified Offsetting Schemes

Carbon offsetting can seem to be a complex process. Once you get to the stage where you are ready to offset your emissions you will want to consider what is legitimate. Cowboy consultants may offer unverified or poorly managed carbon credit schemes that waste your investment and even could potentially do more harm to the environment than good. It has been known that some providers sell carbon credits twice to different customers, and so you’ll need to confirm that your scheme is exclusive to you and wouldn’t have existed without your contributions.
You’ll need to consider schemes that have been third-party verified. This means schemes that have been analysed by independent verifiers who can accurately demonstrate that the carbon offsetting is taking place just as it should. To help identify who these providers are you can look for those who adhere to the highest standards such as PAS 2050 & 2060. When you understand how the scheme is measured and how long it will take to sequester your carbon, you’ll be filled with more confidence and assurance as to what you’re investing your money in. Good offsetting portfolios contain a mix of short and long-term schemes to manage your footprint over time. With the right provider you’ll even be able to include bespoke solutions via insetting opportunities or international and local offsets that have wider positive economic and social impacts. 

Go Above and Beyond

A good sustainability consultant will do more than offset. In fact, they won’t even begin to discuss offsetting until they’ve reduced your carbon footprint. You can benefit from using experts who have a deeper understanding of the challenges that arise when embarking on this path to Net Zero. There is a long-term approach needed to be successful, so you don’t want to partner with someone who treats your sustainability strategy as a tick box exercise. Instead working with a consultancy who can zoom out and understand what your company is trying to achieve is one that prioritises your best interests alongside credible and resilient solutions. It is a collaboration that requires going above and beyond the basics and thinking more flexibly as your business and sustainability strategy adapts over time.

– Certify the Process

Lastly there are a number of carbon labels out there to certify your journey. However, very few factor in the above criteria. Certificates are issued out to organisations by carbon cowboys as a pat on the back, but with no real verification behind it. When making public your commitments to Net Zero Carbon, you don’t want to be in danger of scrutiny because the certification you received has very little validity. It’s important to clarify and celebrate the different milestones your organisation achieves, and so you’ll want to rest assured you are being certified in these key moments by a credible and trustworthy verification body.
If you’d like to talk to our sustainability consultants about your carbon footprint and how you can credibly build your roadmap to Net Zero Carbon, get in touch.

Chris Hocknell, Director at Eight Associates

Chris is a Director of Eight Associates where he brings over 17 years’ experience of supporting the built environment and corporate world with their sustainability goals.