Sustainability Consulting 101: The Role of the Players Driving Impact

I’ve become interested in consulting because of its ability to move bigger levers and engage diverse stakeholders with global presence. For example, the consulting firm Business for Social Responsibility works with the Rocky Mountain Institute, World Resources Institute, and the World Wildlife Fund to facilitate solutions to transform global electricity systems with renewable energy. Conversations like this happening at 30,000 feet drive impact; impact the world needs to navigate a risky future. With change and leadership management also crucial pieces in helping companies adopt an environmentally responsible culture, the role consultants can play is crucial. Today I’m taking the opportunity to explore sustainability consulting and the key players making an impact.


Just 2% of sustainability change management programs work at corporations (Bain, 2016), compared to a 30%  traditional change management program success rate. Clearly, embedding sustainable values into a corporation is extremely challenging. Perhaps too, some companies are not ready to fully commit to a triple bottom line framework.

Yet, now more than ever, consumers expect more transparency and better business practices from corporations. According to the 2017 Cone Communications CSR Study, 79% of Americans expect businesses to continue improving their corporate social responsibility (CSR) and environmental efforts. 64% are hopeful business will take the lead to drive social and environmental change moving forward. Look at Blackrock and Patagonia. The needle is moving, albeit slowly.

Today, 65% of executives report sustainability to be on their top management agenda, up from just 46% in 2010. Companies are moving in the right direction (BCG, 2017). To add sustainability to the business core is to be a 21st century company. Corporations would be foolish not to engage a triple bottom line framework. They can with the help of consulting firms.

10 years ago, the sustainability consulting market didn’t exist as a separate entity, but now it does, according to Yaowen Ma, a Verdantix analyst (Greenbiz, 2015). Though it’s not a booming industry, it has a presence and it’s growing. One challenge is that a corporation needs buy-in and budget across multiple departments to commit to sustainability consulting. Additionally, there may be more growth than we think but, many projects that are sustainably focused fall under other scopes like supply chain or marketing.

Who are the players in the space? Business for Social Responsibility, SustainAbility, and FSG are firms helping public and private partners work on their social and environmental goals. According to Environmental Leader, Deloitte, McKinsey, and PwC lead in sustainability strategy consulting while Ernst & Young, KPMG, and McKinsey (again) offer the strongest sustainability risk assessment services. With the meaning of sustainability evolving, so too, are the companies offering services. For example, Futerra is a women-led consulting firm specializing in sustainability branding and creative. Check out other players here.

What else are these firms accomplishing? SustainAbility helped Maersk build internal awareness of sustainability risks and opportunities in the industry. McKinsey works on solutions to help today’s cities grow economically and sustainably into megacities. PwC implemented a GHG gas assessment and methodology for a transportation provider in Luxemburg so the company could differentiate itself from the competition. Project by project, consulting firms guide partners to towards a triple bottom line approach.

With millennials continuing to demand transparency and social and environmental good from the companies they engage, corporate sustainability will only grow, and with it sustainability consulting.

Written by sbrinker

Brinker has nearly ten years of advancement and communications experience with non-profits focused on conservation and clean energy. Brinker secured two U.S. Department of Energy SunShot grants as well as RE-volv’s largest grant to date from the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, which will be used to deploy 100 kilowatts of installed solar capacity. Through the Oregon MBA, Brinker studies corporate sustainability, advanced strategy, and leadership. After graduation, Brinker seeks to guide corporations in implementing strategies that create more sustainable products and practices. Her love for running is complemented by an equal affinity for pizza.

Inspiration from the 2018 Global Wave Conference

(View of Cowell’s Beach from the conference, photo courtesy of Save the Waves Coalition)

Last week, I had the opportunity to attend the 5th Global Wave Conference in Santa Cruz, CA hosted by the Surfrider Foundation and Save the Waves Coalition. The 3-day conference united ocean scientists, surfers, international NGOs, students, and climate allies (sometimes all 5 wrapped into one person). Perched above iconic Cowell’s Beach, we covered Land and Sea Connection, Protected Areas and Surf, and Climate Change and Innovation. I was inspired by the frankness of the discussion that unfolded throughout the 3 days. Public officials stood in front of the 300-strong crowd and told stories of climate action, and lawyers and scientists from around the world shared tools for protecting marine reserves and the waves we love.

PhD after PhD took the stage and spoke with vigor about the impending climate crisis, yet the morale and drive of the crowd was not broken. An air of hope and optimism flowed through conversations over coffee and the groups huddled in the patches of sun during lunch breaks. Now that I have had a weekend to sit and reflect on the big issues and actions discussed, I can boil it down to three lessons: the need to champion women in the surf industry, action waits for no one, and do not underestimate the power of storytelling.

I had the opportunity to listen to Sachi Cunningham, professor, filmmaker, and ocean champion about her upcoming project, She Change, documenting women in the big wave surfing scene. She spoke with urgency about how the surf industry needs to take a hard look in the mirror about how we represent women on surfboards and in the ocean. Cunningham referenced a 2011 study, “90% of surfers in the US at the time were men. While the number has surely gone up, I know from my time in lineups around the world that there are not enough women in the water.” Cunnignham’s sentiments were echoed by Dr. Krista Cormer, co-founder of the Institute of Women Surfers (IWS), and Captain Liz Clark, sailor, surfer, and author of Swell: A Sailing Surfer’s Voyage of Awakening, Cunngingham closed her talk by challenging everyone in the audience to introduce at least one woman to the water and waves this year.

Dr. Gary Griggs spoke of “measured optimism and radical incrementalism.” Sea-level rise, ocean acidification, the accumulation of plastic in our waterways and oceans – these are issues that everyone can agree on. I was inspired by not only the work that is being done by civil society and the scientists in the room, but also by the private sector. Companies like, Clif Bar, Vissla, Finistere and Sustainable Surf are taking action by reducing their ecological footprints, supporting environmental organizations, innovating with product design and manufacturing, and using their brands as platforms to educate and spur action.

(filmmakers Rodrigo Farais Moreno, Chris Malloy, Sachi Cunningham and Greg MacGillivray)

Lastly, storytelling was a theme throughout the conference. I spent the week listening to the collaborative efforts of companies and NGOs to save Punta de Lobos in Chile from development and to stories of vulnerability and overcoming fear from Captain Liz Clark. I also had the privilege of sitting with filmmakers Sachi Cunningham, Chris Malloy, Rodrigo Farais Moreno, and Greg MacGillivray and listening to their stories of sacrifice and creativity. Storytelling is a powerful part of any toolkit intended to inspire and affect social and environmental change.

Needless to say, I have left the Global Wave Conference inspired with a renewed sense of purpose and resolve that I will take with me into my professional career. To follow the lead of world champion surfer Shaun Thomson and his book I Will, I will explore, surf, and take action to protect the places I love.

Written by sholland

Sam is 2019 MBA with the Center for Sustainable Business Practices. Sam is a self-starter and team builder with 4 years of international development experience specializing in program development and research. Sam is passionate about business because of its ability to have a positive social and environmental impact on communities.

Travel Sustainably

    Photo taken by my scuba instructor, Opal Suthvanich at Koh Tao, Thailand

Growing up in Bangkok, Thailand, I lived in a city that many people from around the world want to visit. They come for the intrinsic culture, beautiful beaches, intriguing activities, sunny weather or maybe just the great general hospitality of the people. Thailand has drawn more than 32.59 million people in 2016, generating tourism revenue of $71.4 billion. The tourism industry has flourished in the past 10 years, thanks to people around the world. I can’t help but smile every time I think back on how I have been able to meet so many people from around the world just in my backyard. Tourism indeed brings about good fortune to Thailand, as well as good memories for visitors and hosts like me.

       Newly Open Water Divers from around the world, Koh Tao, Thailand

Last year in March 2017, I went to Kho Tao, Thailand, in the Southern part of the country to learn scuba diving and to explore the underwater world for the first time. It was one of the most remarkable moments of my life. It reminded me how small we are in this world. It made me wonder: How can we prolong the beauty of nature? How we can maintain the ecosystem? How we can improve the life of the local people in the right way, instead of disrupting nature and ecosystems. It opened my curiosity to explore more sustainable practices within the tourism industry.

In my exploration, I found a lot of great examples of how the tourism industry is pursuing sustainable practices. For instance, Club Med Kani has successfully integrated renewable energy energy conservation thinking into resort operations, reducing its carbon footprint and its impact on the ecosystem of the surrounding areas. This resulted in Club Med installing 67,000 square feet of solar panels on top of the walk ways that connect each villa, making the resort independent of conventional energy generators.

Similarly, Accor Group has recognized the environmental impact from food & beverage waste, using product life cycle analysis of their food waste to develop new ways to make and use food throughout its shelf life. For example, marmalade at Accor sites is made from orange peels that are squeezed to make orange juice in the breakfast buffet. Unconsumed milk is transformed into cheese. Unconsumed pastries are made into puddings.

With the new era of tourism, 54% of the travelers are likely to book hotels or accommodation with the providers that adopt more sustainable and socially responsible practices, according to Trip Advisor. It has given me hope that if the tourism sectors can combine new sustainable technology and innovation to their businesses, they can elevate their practices and provide better solutions and experiences for their customers, community, and environment.

I am hopeful that sustainability can prolong and maintain ecosystems, improve travelling experiences, and enhance the well-being of the communities in all countries around the world that possess many incredible natural attractions, including Thailand.



Written by nuchwara

Nuchwara is a 2018 MBA with the sustainable business practices concentration. With her experiences in importing, exporting and logistics management background, she seeks to explore more of the efficiency operation and how renewable energy can help elevate the supply chain management in terms of, energy usage, water management and waste management. In her free time, she likes to explore more of how sustainability, innovation and CSR can improve the hospitality industry and business practices.

First, Be Scrappy

This past week, I “took over” the Center for Sustainable Business Practices social media channels and shared a bit about my b-school experience thus far. What I hoped to convey is that there are limitless ways to get scrappy about building skills, experience and networks in business school. I have built all these pieces for myself by supporting entrepreneurs at RAIN Eugene, snagging a spot at Expo West through MBArk, securing a job at Lundquist College Career Services, and being specific about my internship search and networking goals.

However, it’s not only about being scrappy, it’s about being strategic. Ask any of us in the program what we do on a Friday when we have no classes and you’ll most likely hear that we’ve got informational interviews set up throughout the day. After all, the best way to land a job that you love is to build relationships with the people who are already there.

Beyond informational interviews, it is helpful to come into b-school with an idea of what your short and long-term goals are. I knew by the end of my first term that I wanted to find a summer internship in consumer goods, at a big company, in a marketing position. Little did I know that this exact opportunity would come to me in the form of a LinkedIn message.

All MBA students here at the U of O create LinkedIn profiles the summer before we start classes. From there, it is up to us to populate it with relevant information about ourselves and our work experience. A great tool on LinkedIn is being able to indicate to recruiters that you are “searching” and to identify specifically what you are searching for. About a month ago, I received a message from a recruiter at Cardinal Health. Before I knew it, I had a quick phone interview and then I was flying to Dublin, Ohio for a round of interviews and networking events. The first question that the Cardinal Health team asked in my interview?

“What have you done to get involved and build experience outside of your MBA classes?”

I was thrilled to receive an offer last Friday.

Ultimately, business school is what you make of it. It is an incredible opportunity in and of itself, but it is the work that you put in on the side and the grit that you commit that opens extra doors to opportunities. Had I not actively made the most of my MBA experience thus far, I wouldn’t have stood out as much to the recruiter who found me on LinkedIn or the managers who interviewed me.

It is a privilege to be here, pursuing a meaningful career, and I’m making the most of it every day.

Written by Daryl Mogilewsky

Daryl is a 2019 MBA in the Center for Sustainable Business Practices. She is a values-driven marketing and communications professional who is inspired by the complicated landscape of making the business case for doing good while doing well.

Bridging Gaps: Built Environments and Sustainability


Bridging Gaps: Built Environments and Sustainability

I define sustainability as a series of processes that make up an ecosystem. These processes work together to not only maintain, but enhance or benefit the ecosystem. I believe through innovation and technology that this ecosystem can become circular in its future functions and operations. I define it as a series of processes because sustainability cannot be achieved through one discipline. I think it will be fully achieved when a variety of different expertise work together to create an economically successful and sustainable place for all people to live.

As a concurrent Master of Architecture and MBA student I am specifically interested in the lack of a multidisciplinary approach to sustainability. There is an unfortunate stigma in the built environments that it is not a very sustainable industry. Although there are many projects and building practices that are extremely sustainable, they are not widely used due to their large upfront costs. Often, it is hard to convince a client to make costly upfront investments in their buildings if they are not sure that they will pay off in the future. In actuality, certain building practices such as photovoltaic panels and water catchment will often pay for itself, and then continue to save the client money. To make things worse, there is a huge knowledge gap in the built environments on how to produce and finance different building practices and products. There are many different solar shading devices and different products that can be applied to buildings to significantly reduce their energy footprint. Although, most architects and collaborating manufacturing firms are only focused on the product’s effectiveness, and less about how to market and incentivize consumers within the industry. Architects often fall into the marketing trap of “if I make it people will want it.” With the knowledge and skills gained from an MBA this discrepancy can be better accounted for.

Looking deeper into the built environments, buildings can be net-positive in the sense that they can produce enough electricity to power its own energy needs and still have a surplus left over to give back to the grid or to other nearby buildings. Same goes for water catchment, in areas where rainfall is abundant buildings can collect enough water for their own facilities, while also slowing the watershed in urban settings. This is crucial to understand because it is similar to a carbon tax trade off some companies use to reduce carbon emissions. For example, an airline company many produce a huge amount of carbon emissions, but by planting more trees in a different area, they are reducing their carbon footprint. They are physically still emitting greenhouse gases, but they are trying to give back to the community by planting trees that will sequester carbon in other areas. Similarly, the construction of a building produces many carbon emissions in the fabrication, construction, and treatment phases. Yet, there are many choices a client can make to help their building give back in different aspects of electricity, clean water and biodiversity.

Habitat Island, Vancouver B.C., Canada Photo by: Lindsey Naganuma

Written by

Lindsey Naganuma is a concurrent Architecture and MBA student with focus on process-based design and sustainable building practices. Background in art history with an emphasis on architectural history. Experience in working in teams and knows the DNA of a good team. Interested in joining a vertically integrated firm and designing client-driven solutions that demonstration the bottom line tomorrow is worth more than the bottom line today.