10 Tips that we learnt from our first 10 years as an Environmental & Sustainability Consultancy

Our environmental and sustainability consultancy, onePlanet Solutions, was founded on 18 October 2010. What have we learn by reflecting on the past 10 years & what are our plans for the next 10 years.

This article looks back to the lessons that we learnt in setting up an environmental and sustainability consultancy & to the future.

We will share 10 learning points that helped us to grow as a business, which may prove valuable for you and your business, whether you are setting up as an environmental consultant, auditor or other sustainability consultancy role.

We had two drivers for setting up our business.

Whilst, we had seen many consultancies deliver on their promise, we could see a gap in the market to help support individual business with specialist environmental compliance support, which is often poorly understood.

The second driver was supporting the auditing of Environmental Management Systems (EMS), which is an, often, misunderstood, and neglected profession especially for the delivery of the competence and expertise expected of third-party auditors & internal auditors.

It is interesting to reflect that we responded to these early challenges and developed our business offering in ways that we had not, originally, considered.

We were helped and influenced by the developing recognition of the climate emergency facing the world, especially the in-person influence that Al Core had on all of us at onePlanet Solutions, when we saw him at the UK premier of the film: Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power.

Our early growth was positive with a large online retailer needing support on the legislation on Restrictions to Hazardous Substances (RoHS) and the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) as well as other businesses in the engineering and construction sector on their pollution control measures.

Over the next five years, we worked directly with about 15 clients in the development of their Environmental Management Systems to fully embed pollution protection and compliance management.

Around that time, we were completing about 60 audits for Internal Audit & Second- and Third-Party External Audits each year.

Indeed, we worked, really hard, with one client to transition to Remote Audits in 2004, way before the current interest in remote working due to the COVID-19 pandemic saving my client over £35,000 each year in travel and other associated costs.

Later in our business, I had the opportunity to be the Co-Convenor of an influential ISO/CASCO Working Group on the development of ISO/IEC 17021-2:2016 for the development of competence requirements for auditing and certification of environmental management systems. Thus, helping to fulfil one of our initial business drivers on an international stage with an impact on all certification body auditors, world-wide.

The learning point for us during this time were:

Early in our business, I was offered a role in supporting a two-year international project in Ukraine delivered by the Austrian and Czech Environment Ministries in the areas of Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and the EU Eco-Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS).

It was something that I thought I could not support as a small consultancy, even though I had previously been exposed to these technical areas and had a good track record in similar projects within my previous roles in the Environment Agency.

But, at the same time, I knew that I could make a difference in the project.

I took a chance… which led to a terrific time of working with other technical experts and a challenging time from a country with its own political and environmental challenges.

Here, I learnt that:

During later years, my role as the founder of the consultancy as led me to re-evaluate the best way to support my clients with increased emphasis on the development of their senior management to embed environmental and sustainability principles.

I, now, spend more time “working on my business” rather than “working in my business”.

From 2015 onwards, this led me to spend more time following and tracking developing legislation, such as the Energy Saving Opportunities Scheme (ESOS) & the Streamlined Energy and Carbon Reporting (SECR) & other developments which are not on the radar for many businesses.

This strategy has been successful for my business as well as for my clients. Across my recent ESOS Assessments in Phase 2, which closed in December 2019, I identified over £1.5 million worth of energy savings that those production companies, charities and partnerships could benefit from each and every year.

From this aspect of my business, I learnt:

Our consultancy shares many strategies to guide businesses to a more sustainable future, but we needed to be willing and able to demonstrate that we have been on the same or similar journey.

Soon after our founding, we installed Photo Voltaic (Solar) Panels to power our business premises and to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels.

Not long after, we were awarded a Zero Waste Award for our business and for our resource management delivery to our clients. In turn, we have won similar awards for our clients to give external recognition to their progress towards a more, sustainable future.

Our YouTube channel has been influential in communicating the environmental impact of plastic through our UN World Environment Day videos on “Beat Plastic Pollution and the changes that we can all make to reduce our dependence on single-use plastic.

More recently, we have signed to the “Pledge to Net Zero” as the first small environmental consultancy to do so & to the United Nation’s Climate Neutral Now initiative. These commitments have led the reduction of our carbon footprint by 80% over the lifetime of our business & we have committed to be open, transparent, and accountable to our targets to reduce by a further 29% by 2025. Currently, all our unavailable carbon emissions are offset to demonstrate a “net zero” approach of our business as well as to encourage others to invest in a low carbon future.

From our sustainability journey with our clients, we learnt to:

Early in 2020 and with no special insight into the changes that would unfold, I had already started to re-configure our business to deal with, both, the known future; the UK leaving the European Union & the unknown.

We changed our business model before the COVID-19 pandemic to service clients within the USA, Japan and beyond with our value-add services to grow environmental and sustainability leadership in large organisations and international corporations. This strategy allowed us to continue to pay our three employees and associates without government assistance & to continue to develop our business.

At the same time, it will be a momentous period of change for the United Kingdom & we are determined to be at the fore-front of our core values of working with our current and future clients to manage their new compliance obligations from 1 January 2021 onwards.

We remain committed to developing and enhancing our EMSmastery.com brand and our YouTube channel to share our environmental and sustainability knowledge, freely and widely.

Our final lessons learnt over our 10 year of business are that:

I hope that this article has helped to share the valuable insight and learning points from our first 10 years of business. Please share your comments on this article or your own business journey in the Comments Box below.

If you enjoyed this article, you should subscribe to our YouTube Channel – EMSmastery, where you can watch our videos, such as our video accompanying this article on 10 Tips that we learnt from the first 10 years of our business and subscribe in our YouTube channel for new videos released each week.

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