Top Sustainability Consultants: Where Do You Rank?

As green marketers, we spend a lot of time thinking about brands as clients. In Verdantix’s recent study Global Sustainability Leaders Survey: Brands, the tables are turned as they rank the consultants and service providers offering counsel on sustainability. The study was based on interviews with 250 senior sustainability decision-makers at firms with annual revenues greater than $250 million, across 21 industries in 13 countries. 

As Verdantix points out, global spending is increasing on corporate sustainability initiatives, and, as a result, the largest companies are constantly engaging with sustainability service providers (many of whom, I suspect, read Marketing:Green!). These providers include everything: consultants; assurance providers; sustainability management software, and collaboration with not-for-profit organizations. 

Survey participants were asked about current and future engagement, awareness, and perceptions of 52 sustainability consulting firms, assurance providers, software vendors and not-for-profit organizations. 

The result? Verdantix found that decision-makers prefer the sustainability services of established global brands – in particular, the “big four” accounting firms. 

  • In sustainability consulting, Ernst & Young leads with a brand preference score of 39%, relative to 37% for KPMG, 33% for Deloitte and 30% for PwC. Among the management consulting firms, Accenture achieved a score of 22%, beating McKinsey at 21% and Bain at 15%.

  • KPMG achieved the highest brand preference score in the sustainability assurance market with 36%, just ahead of Ernst & Young with 35% of survey respondents indicating a positive brand perception. Bureau Veritas reached 22%, the highest brand preference for a supplier outside of the Big Four.

  • In the software category, Microsoft leads global brand preference with heads of sustainability, as a provider of software for sustainability management with a score of 39%. SAP is close behind with 38% followed by Oracle and IBM. Specialist software firms CarbonSystems and Credit360 both achieved the highest brand preference score of 16%.

  • Among the not-for-profits, CDP and the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) top the brand preference list among 250 heads of sustainability scoring 57% and 61% respectively. The World Wildlife Fund  reached a brand preference score of 48% and the UN Environment Program 44%.

Patty Satkiewicz, Verdantix Industry Analyst and author of the report said, "The Big Four accounting firms - Deloitte, Ernst & Young, KPMG and PwC - have secured the strongest brand preference in both the sustainability consulting and sustainability assurance markets. Since this is a market which requires deep pockets, the Big Four's dominance already looks ominous for their competitors."

So, what are small, boutique firms to do? How can they compete against such large firms with deep pockets? Has sustainability become mainstream enough that it’s also a money game? 

Let me know your thoughts in the comments or @Measure4What.

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