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HomeGreening the economyCould professional services companies be a new frontier for environmental action?

Could professional services companies be a new frontier for environmental action?

The power of businesses to shape our economy in ways that address the environmental crisis is growing. From retailers, like Iceland and Co-op and big service firms like Schneider Electric, to those in the high fashion marketplace, like FarFetch or Veja, companies are showing how environmental and business objectives can align. And these companies aren’t just doing what is needed to follow government requirements, they often aim to lead the way.

Green Alliance has long worked with the private sector seeing it, right from our beginning over 40 years ago, as vital to achieving our objective of ambitious political leadership for the environment. 

We want businesses to go further and faster
Since I joined Green Alliance three and half years ago, I’ve been talking to companies and working on how we can continue to support the greater level of environmental leadership emerging from the private sector. We want to help a greater number of progressive businesses to go further and faster in addressing the crisis, supported by positive government policies. And, as the indicators and the science show, decisive action is needed early this decade, and businesses, as a crucial part of this, have to up their game.  

Green Alliance already works closely with business organisations, such as the CBI and the Aldersgate Group. And recently we renewed the offer under our own Business Circle, through which we share expertise and intelligence on environmental policy issues with about 20 businesses. This, alongside work with the leading brands on our Circular Economy Task Force and other issue based projects, means we maintain strong links with a wide range of companies and sectors.

But we still grapple with the challenge of how we, as an expert but relatively small organisation, can maximise our ability to work with the private sector. One missing sector with great influence that we have, until now, had little interaction with is professional services. Companies in this sector have a particular set of skills and capabilities, as well as access to the most powerful – and most polluting – industries in the world. We know they work with fossil fuel companies, but that is one of the reasons we think they could influence profound and large scale change.

Professional services firms are well placed to lead
We are pleased to be able to correct this with a new project we have just launched with Deloitte, through which we will be assessing where professional service firms should direct their enormous expertise and resources to make the biggest positive impact on the environment.

Combining Green Alliance’s analytical expertise with Deloitte’s unique skillset and capability to work across sectors, we aim to identify a set of climate solutions that can be more widely taken to the market. The common theme of the solutions proposed will be that they must have major impact: something Deloitte is keen to make sure is achieved through their involvement.

With deep understanding of supply management, climate finance, technological innovation, operational and efficiency improvement, Deloitte is well placed. By allying our expertise with Deloitte’s understanding of the business landscape and access to companies, we want this work to result in a surge of new initiatives across business that leads to greater, tangible environmental improvements.

We will be using our extensive knowledge to score and screen over sixty existing solutions that, deployed at scale, will deliver benefits, such as emissions reductions, air quality improvement and marine protection. Through this partnership we will work with Deloitte on devising strategy around the role professional service firms can play in promoting these solutions. As well as having direct environmental benefits, we also want this work to send a strong signal to the wider business world that this is the direction the influential service firms they employ are moving in.

We will be reaching beyond the usual suspects, so not just those with obvious environmental roles or sympathies, to engage with senior employees in the professional services industry, to discuss their priorities and motivations, and deepen understanding of what it will take for them to lead a green business transition, and what they need to adapt.

We hope this relatively small project will nevertheless be powerful and create ripples, not just through Deloitte but onto their clients too, and that it will lead to other professional services firms understanding better the sound business sense of prioritising environmental objectives.

If you are interested in working with Green Alliance to ensure workable, effective policies are put in place to address the environmental crisis, please contact me at bgordon@green-alliance.org.uk

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