Questions to Ask a Sustainability or EHS Consultant

Before You Sign on the Dotted Line, Ask Your EHS&S Consultant These 10 Questions

September 25th, 2018

Lack of bandwidth. Limited budget. The absence of on-the-ground resources or niche expertise. Tight or urgent timelines. Regardless of your reasoning, you’re on the hunt for an experienced environmental, health, and safety (EHS) or sustainability consulting firm that can deliver positive results on-time and on-budget.

But choosing the right EHS consultant or sustainability expert isn’t and shouldn’t be a snap decision. You’re facing unique challenges and opportunities within your organization and industry—and you need a firm that not only offers wide-ranging expertise, but tailored solutions.

But how do you gauge whether a consulting firm is a match for your needs? What questions do you need to be asking?

After decades of work in the EHS and sustainability consulting realm, we’ve been in the hot seat countless times as our clients do their due diligence. Below we share some of the thoughtful questions we’re often asked, as well as some others we believe you can leverage to help make your decision.

Experience

 

1. Do you have applicable EHS&S experience in my industry, region, and country of operation? What companies does your portfolio include?

There’s little doubt that you want a consulting partner with experience in your unique industry. But dig a little deeper to determine whether a firm has local expertise and resources. From unique regulations and policies to cultural nuances, local knowledge and expertise will be critical for designing a plan that meets your business and compliance needs.

And as a follow-up, ask for examples of companies they’ve worked with in your industry or a comparable industry. This will help you get a deeper understanding of their capabilities in your sector.

Check out our robust archive of EHS and sustainability case studies to learn more about our unique expertise.

2. What is your full range of service offerings?

You’re looking for a consultant because you have an immediate need for assistance. But compliance requirements change. Internal teams change. Priorities change. And new challenges and opportunities present themselves regularly.

By understanding a consulting firm’s full-line of service offerings, you may be able to find a go-to, long-term partner that can support you as new needs arise. Ultimately, this not only eliminates another round of search and discovery, but also gives you more momentum since your firm of choice has the historic company knowledge it needs to hit the ground running more quickly.

3. Have you ever pitched a project concept to the C-Suite? What was their reaction?

Do you need to bring in your sustainability or EHS consulting firm candidates, so your leadership can sign-off on the hire? Or are you wondering if a consultant has the chops to effectively pitch your eventual plan and win buy-in from key executive stakeholders? Then this is the perfect question to determine whether they can help make you and your efforts look good in front of your bosses.

Execution

 

4. Compliance is a minimum; how do you keep up with ever-changing industry regulations around the world?

If you’re managing multiple facilities around the world, you know that staying current on changing compliance regulations can be incredibly challenging. As a result, it’s critical that the consulting firm you hire has the resources and strategy in place to monitor and manage changes to ensure your program hits the compliance mark. So, don’t forget this question.

5. How have you tackled a situation/program like this for past clients? Can you walk me through the steps you took?

As the old adage goes, the devil is in the details. Ask the consulting firms you’re considering to go in-depth on the approach they’ve taken to solve similar challenges or capitalize on opportunities.

6. Knowing my needs, how would you suggest solving my problem?

Once you understand how a firm has approached past projects, it’s time to ask for specifics on how they would create and execute on a strategy to meet your unique needs. Again, details matter and you want to be confident in your consultant’s ability to help you reach your objectives.

7. How will you communicate progress updates with me as you move forward?

We all have a preferred cadence and medium of communication when collaborating on projects. So, not only ask your consultants how they typically communicate before, during, and after a project kicks off, but also don’t be afraid to let them know what your expectations are.

8. How do you plan to get this project done on-time and on-budget?

More than likely, one way that you’ll be measuring the success of any EHS or sustainability initiative is whether it was completed in scope. After all, time is always of the essence and budgets are firm.

So, ask consultants to explain how they plan for potential hiccups or where they can be more agile to streamline efforts to ensure timely and cost-effective service delivery.

Results

 

9. How do you typically measure whether a project or initiative was effective?

EHS and sustainability are becoming increasingly intertwined with overall business objectives and operations, which means you’re tasked with delivering both qualitative and quantitative results.

So, ask your potential consulting partners to provide you with specifics on what and how they measure to determine the success of a program. In addition, use this as another opportunity to set expectations and see whether their approach and measurement capabilities truly align with your needs.

10. For a program like the one you’re proposing to me, what results do you anticipate seeing?

At the end of the day, if you’re investing in a consulting partnership, you want to see results. And while it’s impossible for a consultant to predict the exact outcome of a project, if they’re experienced in your industry and service area of need, they should be able to provide you with examples of results they’ve seen for similar projects.

So, in addition to asking EHS or sustainability consulting candidates to walk you through their approach and how they plan to tackle your project, press them for details on the potential results or ROI you can hope to see.

Get Your Questions Answered

In order to get the most out of your EHS or sustainability consulting partnership, you need to be clear on the firm’s experience, service capabilities, approach to the work, and how they plan to deliver value. Use these questions to vet potential partners so you can get the insight you need to make an informed decision.

You’ve got questions, we’ve got answers. Get in touch with us today to discuss your project needs, challenges, and opportunities.

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