Edie Consultancy Survey - Executive summary
The 2006 edie.net and Environment Business Environmental Consultancy Survey reveals clients' expectations alongside consultants' predictions, exposes views on who has the best reputation and why, as well as stealing a glance into what the future holds for the booming environmental sector.
The clients, as always, come first, as their needs and choices provide the ultimate driver behind market dynamics, be that mere stirrings or complete shifts in direction.
Clients spoke loud and clear when asked what most influences their choice of consultancy, putting reputation high above price or any other factors. But many also felt that a specialised service was worth rooting around for instead of going for an across-the-board environmental company.
The question of specialisation - be that in wave power, de-commissioning of nuclear sites or even just environmental issues as a whole - raised some lively debate. And with the recent decision of one major consultancy - AEA Technology - to sell a part of its business and focus down on environmental services only, we may soon have a real-life experiment to test some of the arguments advanced.
Both clients and consultants predicted strong growth throughout the sector, with waste and climate change-related services seen as the most promising - indicating future opportunities for specialised and wide-ranging service providers alike.
The climate change and renewables arena in particular stands out for its rise as a growth area in consultants' and clients' eyes alike. While in 2005 clients put climate change at an unspectacular tenth place on a scale of thirteen when asked in which areas they will need to purchase services, they appear to have undergone a drastic change of mind since then and now put climate-related service in first place, on a par with waste management.
Alongside the legislative changes and shifts in corporate strategy both in the UK and globally that normally drive growth, it appears that the rising profile of the climate change agenda is emerging as a growing market growth accelerator.
Climate is climbing up the Government agenda and making more inroads into corporate culture and attracting unprecedented media attention. And the CO2 question is by no means limited to the energy sector, but penetrates everything from waste management to water treatment - as one consultant put it, "carbon is everything."
While business is booming, competition levels follow suit as consultants vie for new and existing clients, with repercussions on companies' efforts to attract the best workers with varied, high profile projects, flexibility and opportunities for career development.
But while legislation came up repeatedly as a force assisting market growth, many of the changes we are observing today can only be put down to shifts in corporate culture.
As finance bodies demand more accountability and firms put more emphasis on assessing the social and environmental impacts of their activities, it is no wonder that the environmental sector is booming even without the introduction of a new piece of environmental legislation every week.
As Nigel Clark, marketing director at Enviros, put it, "it's not about getting a client to tick a box to keep regulators on side and keep them out of court. It's about whether you can help them to improve their business and improve the environment at the same time.
"It will be the consultants that align themselves with that agenda that will be the ones that succeed."