ESG net zero road image

[updated 13 January 2021]

The latest ESG Strategies report from Environment Analyst assesses where the top-flight environmental & sustainability (E&S) advisers and professional services firms are on their climate commitment and leadership journeys, as well as the complex challenges and motivations for consultancies to move further and faster on net zero as they encourage their client organisations to do the same. 

The report, ‘Consultancies in the race to net zero’, finds that 21 of the ‘Global 25’ E&S consulting leaders (84%) have now pledged to achieve a science-based net zero target or equivalent (although their timelines vary markedly), while all of the management consultancy/Big 4 firms assessed in the report are similarly committed. However, two of the Global 25 are yet to publish any formal net zero, climate neutral or carbon neutral target dates.

"There is a virtuous circle of consultancy-client-investor-stakeholder demands and drivers at work in respect of net zero"

AECOM is singled out in the report as one of the industry sector leaders in the NZ agenda, given its accelerated commitments to have achieved operational net zero by the end of 2021 and full SBTi-aligned, value chain net zero by 2030. The US-headquartered group is currently in the minority within the Global 25 for its enhanced target-setting, reported progress and roadmap, particularly where the notoriously challenging scope 3 (value chain) greenhouse gas emissions are concerned. AECOM’s ScopeX design initiative launched last year is central to its ESG-focused ‘Sustainable Legacies’ plan with a goal to help reduce the carbon impact of its entire global portfolio of engineering, building and consulting client projects by at least 50% by the end of the decade. 

In addition to AECOM and the management consulting majors, ERM, Mott MacDonald, Sweco and WSP rate highly according to the study, given their expedited climate action programmes.

The report also highlights the success of initiatives such as the UN’s Race to Zero and the Pledge to Net Zero (with the latter having grown out of the UK environmental industry’s efforts) in raising awareness of the significance and rigour of science-based targets, as well as various innovative schemes — in some cases tied to financial incentives — being adopted by consulting firms to reduce their climate impact. 

Figure 1: Consultancy net zero targets

Consultancy Net Zero (dotplot)

 [Click on graphic for interactive version or see here

Report recommendations

  • Stretch targets — indicate your intent and lead the way by signing up to net zero commitments and science-based targets
  • Be specific and transparent — move from qualitative to quantitative reporting as investors and the public are looking for concrete evidence of action
  • Allow some humility — be open about challenges to enable others to do the same, and open the doors to mutually beneficial conversations and exchanges up and down the supply chain
  • Collaborate and lead in shaping the agenda — take part in international coalitions or national initiatives to demonstrate leadership and send a strong message to clients
  • Incentivise goals — help meet and expedite climate and sustainability targets with financial tie-ins such as levies, sustainability-linked loans and comps packages linked to ESG performance
  • Power in unity (especially when addressing the value chain net zero challenge) — create a shared sense of possibility and dramatically accelerate change by getting buy-in and full commitment from staff, suppliers and clients

Access report

The full 36-page report ESG Strategies: Consultancies in the race to net zero (which includes 32 individual consultancy climate strategy profiles* and an interactive web-based dataset and dashboard) is available to Environment Analyst Strategic Members via our reports download page. Members were emailed report access and login details on 23 December 2021. Please contact EA’s Lisa Turner if you would like to obtain a copy of the report or have any queries about accessing it.

*Consulting firms featured in the report include: AECOM, Antea Group (part of the Inogen Alliance), Arcadis, Arup, Bain & Co, BCG, Cardno, Deloitte, ERM, EY, GHD, HDR, ICF, Inogen Alliance, Jacobs, KPMG, McKinsey & Co, Mott MacDonald, PwC, Ramboll, Royal HaskoningDHV, RPS, SLR, SMEC/Surbana Jurong, SNC-Lavalin (inc. Atkins), Stantec, Sweco, Tauw, Tetra Tech Inc, Wood, Worley (Advisian), and WSP.

Continue the Net Zero debate at our virtual panel discussion

To continue the conversation around ESG target setting, net zero progress and climate leadership in the industry, we are hosting a free panel discussion for EA's Strategic Members featuring consultancy business leaders on 2 February at 4pm GMT / 11am ET / 8am PT. 

More information on the featured panellists to follow shortly. 

Register for the panel discussion here