The last decade has seen an evolution of what has become known as sustainability consulting: Corporate demand for expert advice on social responsibility, environmental impact mitigation strategies, environmental or socially-minded re-branding efforts development of new product and marketing strategies to serve environmental markets and internal and supply-chain assessments that have led to improved efficiencies and regulatory risk mitigation.
Initially led by boutique firms (headed by professionals with personal passions for environmental or social causes and career histories to match), larger firms (accounting, legal and traditional corporate consulting) soon entered the market, redirecting existing personnel or acquiring new expertise and applying their traditional business models to market demand for sustainability services.
The question, however, is whether there will be continued demand in the future -- i.e., is sustainability consulting sustainable?
The Drivers of Change
Over the past decade, mega-trends like globalization, e-commerce and information technology have fundamentally impacted businesses and markets. Over the next decade these and an expanding number of powerful drivers of market change will place a higher priority on foresight, innovation and adaptation -- by both companies and the consultants that seek to serve them. Among the key issues:
• Planetary Constraints. Population growth, land and agricultural stresses, growing stresses on water quantities and quality, extreme weather -- and social and regulatory responses to all -- will challenge markets and businesses in the 21st Century. Threats to the economic and political stability of the markets for companies' goods and services.
• Energy Dynamics. Rising populations, expanding middle class populations and increased urbanization will increase demand for modern energy services and the resources upon which they rely. These demands will have consequences for national and world economies, geopolitical relations as well as the environment.
• Information Flows and Expectations for Radical Transparency. The combination of changing stakeholder expectations and the power of social media will have impacts on corporate governance and transparency.
• Social Megatrends. Changing demographics and consumption, urbanization, population aging, deteriorating air and water quality with resulting health impacts, the liberalization of autocratic economies -- and the social and political responses to all -- will change markets and demand new business strategies.
• Market Push: Governmental Response. Governments around the world will respond to these global changes. Environmental regulation, trade policies, incentive structures, performance standards and disclosure rules are already business-impacting; their business relevance will only increase.
• Market Pull: Response of Global 100. Many of the world's largest multinational corporations are putting new demands on the companies in their supply chains far faster than governments are able to craft regulations.
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