Sustainability and the Green Transition: Opportunities for Consultants

Balazs Mezosi CMC©

Professional standards and ethics shaping the future of the consulting profession while helping to accommodate the changes brought about by powerful global drivers were the subject of an online discussion on 14 July 2022 as part of the ICMCI Future of Management Consultancy initiative. The panellists included Dr. Ilse Andrea Ennsfellner CMC CSE, Anis Jabsheh CMC and Balazs Mezosi CMC. The conversation was moderated by Celal Seçkin CMC, ICMCI Professional Standards Committee Chair.         

As regards sustainability from the point of view of management consultants, Balazs Mezosi CMC focused on the environmental aspects referred to generally as sustainability, the Green Transition or simply being green.

At this point in time, scientists mostly agree that the world is undergoing a dramatic climate crisis caused by humanity. National and supranational organisations, regulators and market players share and follow that way of thinking. They have instituted relevant policies and created appropriate tools for the good cause of the Green Transition. As such, it is long-term commitment for companies and consultants. It gives objectives to pursue along with market opportunities. 

Why is environmental sustainability a megatrend? 

  • It has already been established as an obligation for companies. Regulations and policies require companies to be green or, at least, greener.
  • At the same time, there is a market demand for companies, and their partners along the chain, to be green.
  • There is a clear communication value in being green.

The bottom line is, that companies want to be green, and they also want to look green.

How does sustainability lead to consulting? In recent years, many new consulting services have appeared in relation to sustainability associated with ESG taxonomy, do no significant harm (DNSH) analyses, renewable energy and decarbonisation, for example. There is also an indirect impact such as in marketing, HR, sales, IT. 

As the concept of sustainability becomes ever-present and is incorporated into the fabric of companies and public sector entities, consultants need to be prepared and have a basic understanding of sustainability, its role and implications.

A specific differentiation emerges between companies in terms of size and capacity entailing different awareness, approaches and opportunities.

Large companies are usually already involved in green actions which are fuelled by shareholder expectations and also required by regulations. The large companies know what they need to do. They have the competence and dedicated resources, as well as access to finance. They are thus able to invest and embed green thinking in their every-day operations.

On the other hand, many micro and small enterprises struggle to understand what the Green Transition will mean to them. What is more dangerous, in some cases they have misbelieves and misunderstandings. They often lack the intention to become greener because they do not see the benefit of starting on such a journey. They do not see the path ahead and there is no one to hold their hand along the way. Furthermore, they often have unrealistic expectations on return of investment and lack the knowledge to formulate and express their needs. This opens interesting opportunities for consultants to assist SMEs. Consultants could educate SMEs and raise the knowledge among fellow consultants too.

In terms of the catalysts for change in the business world, standards support and facilitate. The role of a standard is, on the one hand, to define the processes and methodologies. Therefore, to have a standard is a crucial element of change management.

In the case of sustainability, it is important to know what “green” means. Who to trust in this matter? Who is entitled to call something “green”? This is where the standard comes in and provides reference points, for both clients and consultants. A certain level of standardisation is necessary, not only ISO but also methodologies, metrics and processes, to help implementers and to make the results and projects valid and comparable.

In terms of ethics, there are several salient topics regarding sustainability:

  • Green washing: It is inevitable to be involved in a Green Transition but it also carries a huge risk. In the short term, it is possible to look green without being green and this phenomenon is described as “green washing”. Standards and ethics are here to support professional consultants and thus to protect clients, and therefore the market, and the green cause in general.  
  • Privatising profits while socialising costs: It is usually a dilemma for public sector consultants. The burden and the profits need to be allocated fairly.
  • Practice what you preach: An example from Hungary is a network of companies which agreed to abide by fundamental principles in their work: not to take on projects which have an overall negative effect on the environment. They thus lead by example and strive to align development and sustainability as much as possible. Furthermore, they offer a pro bono opportunity for those in real need. Such elements of practice could be building stones of ethical consulting practices.

For more from Balazs Mezosi CMC, please check out this video

For more highlights of the event, please visit the ICMCI YouTube channel

About Balazs Mezosi CMC©

Dr. Balazs Mezosi CMC® holds a Ph.D. in regional development and is a proponent of sustainability. He is owner and managing director of DevEco Consulting Ltd. and Technical Lead of the Hungarian Chamber of Commerce. He has more than 20 years of experience as a consultant, out of which 10 years with KPMG in Central and Eastern Europe. He dedicates his efforts to aligning public sector entities and market players in sustainability for win-win cooperation.


About the Future of Management Consultancy

Combining a series of events, discussions and publications, the ICMCI Future of Management Consultancy initiative strives to promote the global conversation about the future of the profession towards developing a common vision to help and inspire consultants all over the world.

Designed as an “open source” and inclusive platform, the Future of Management Consultancy is an opportunity to seek answers to pressing questions and to encourage interactive communication and joint idea generation.