Sustainability in the Professional Services Industry: A Competitive Advantage

In a recent KPMG Employment Survey, it was found that 46% of office workers want to work for companies that can demonstrate their ESG credentials, with a growing trend of these employees seeking out companies to work for, that meet this need. They are the ‘Climate Quitters’.

As professional services firms face this trend head-on in the fight for talent, they are considering sustainability in their operations and business practices.

Here are some reasons why professional services firms should prioritise sustainability and some tips for making your firm more sustainable:

Meet the expectations of clients and stakeholders

Sustainability is becoming increasingly important to clients and stakeholders, and professional services firms that prioritise sustainability are likely to be more attractive to these groups. A survey by the Carbon Trust found that 88% of UK businesses believe that being more sustainable could improve their reputation, and 82% believe it could increase customer loyalty. By demonstrating a commitment to sustainability, you can build trust with clients and stakeholders and differentiate yourself from competitors. Professional Service firms are, typically, trusted advisors and as such, could be relied on by clients to be leading the way.

Enhance financial performance

Sustainability can also have a positive impact on your financial performance. A survey by the Energy Saving Trust found that 69% of UK businesses believe that investing in sustainability measures would have a positive impact on their bottom line. By reducing your energy consumption, water usage, and waste, you can lower your costs and improve your profitability. Sustainability can also help you to generate new revenue streams by providing products or services that meet the growing demand for sustainable solutions.

Attract and retain top talent

Sustainability is also important for attracting and retaining top talent. A survey by the Carbon Trust found that 85% of UK businesses believe that sustainability can help them attract and retain employees. By demonstrating your commitment to sustainability, you can differentiate yourself as an employer and attract employees who value sustainability.

Comply with laws and regulations

Many countries have enacted laws and regulations related to sustainability, and professional services firms that fail to comply with these regulations can face fines and other penalties. By prioritising sustainability, you can ensure that your firm is in compliance with relevant laws and regulations.

Reduce risks

Sustainability can also help professional services firms to reduce risks. By considering the potential risks and opportunities that may arise as a result of climate change and other environmental factors, you can make informed decisions that help to ensure the long-term viability of your firm.

So, how can professional services firms be more sustainable? Here are some tips:

1. Develop a sustainability strategy

Developing a sustainability strategy can help to ensure that sustainability is integrated into all aspects of your operations. Your Strategy should outline your commitment to sustainability and specify the actions you will take to reduce your environmental impact. Make this a working document with your objectives clearly set out.

2. Reduce energy use

One of the most effective ways to improve the sustainability of your operations is to reduce your energy consumption. This can be done through a variety of measures, including installing energy-efficient lighting and equipment, using renewable energy sources, and implementing energy-saving practices.

3. Reduce water use

Water conservation is another important aspect of sustainability for professional services firms. Some ways to reduce water use include installing low-flow faucets and toilets, using water-efficient equipment, and implementing water-saving practices. This is ‘walking the walk’ and showing your employees that you care and are taking action, even though this might not be your biggest impact area.

4. Reduce waste

Professional services firms often generate a significant amount of waste, which can have negative environmental impacts. To reduce waste, consider implementing a recycling program, using eco-friendly office supplies and packaging materials, and finding ways to reuse or repurpose materials. Don’t forget e-waste. The UK is one of the worst offenders in this area with an average of 23.9kg being produced per head.

5. Source sustainably

The products and services you purchase can have a significant impact on your sustainability. Consider sourcing products and services from suppliers that prioritise sustainability and have strong environmental and social practices.

6. Implement sustainable transportation

Transportation is a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, so finding ways to reduce the environmental impact of your transportation practices can have a significant impact on your sustainability. Consider using public transportation, implementing telecommuting programs, and encouraging carpooling.

7. Use technology to reduce travel

Professional services firms often rely on travel to meet with clients and conduct business. However, this can have a negative impact on the environment. To reduce the environmental impact of your travel, consider using video conferencing and other technology to reduce the need for in-person meetings. If you are at the stage of measuring your carbon footprint, a significant amount of your Scope 3 emissions can be avoided by reducing business travel.

8. Encourage sustainable behaviours

Encouraging sustainable behaviours among your employees can also help to make your professional services firm more sustainable. This can include things like encouraging carpooling or the use of public transportation, providing recycling bins, and offering incentives for employees who adopt sustainable behaviours.

9. Measure and report on your sustainability performance

Measuring and reporting on your sustainability performance can help you to track your progress and identify areas for improvement. Consider using sustainability metrics, such as greenhouse gas emissions, water usage, waste reduction, education and community hours are given to track your performance. You can then share this information with your clients, employees, and the public to demonstrate your commitment to sustainability. Don’t forget that this measure also includes your social aspects too… Diversity and inclusion as well as community involvement, play a big part here.

10. Collaborate with other organisations

Collaborating with other organisations, such as industry associations, research institutions, and non-profits, can help you learn from others and find ways to further improve your sustainability performance.

By implementing these and other sustainability measures, professional services firms can reduce their environmental impact, improve their financial performance, and build a positive reputation. Sustainability is becoming increasingly important in the business world, and taking steps to make your professional services firm more sustainable can help to ensure the long-term success and viability of your organisation. So, these are the ways professional services firms can be more sustainable.


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