5 Ways Sustainability Consulting Differs From In-House Roles

by Shannon Houde

Many candidates wanting to break into the sustainability field struggle to focus on the type of role that would fit them best. One client said they could see themselves working in consulting, in-house or for a non-profit. That raises a red flag to me! These are all very different cultures, contexts and offer very different roles within them.  So if you are trying to decide what is the best focus for you in order to develop a competitive story for the market, here are five ways that consulting is very different from in-house positions.

1. Pay

Many people assume that consultants earn more money than in-house, but this simply isn’t true.  Acre Resources’ annual CSR Salary Survey found that consultants in 2010 earned about $15k less than in-house practioners in the UK and $24k less in continental Europe.  These differences were not offset by higher bonuses, so if you are looking for the big money, perhaps look again.


Sign Up For Our Newsletter

Sign up

2. Skills

A Senior Consultant at leading sustainability, strategy and communications consultancy, Salter Baxter, said that the trend in today’s market is that both consultants and in-house practitioners should be delivering three key skills – collaboration, innovation and engagement.  However what really sets these two types of roles apart is business development.  Both roles require strong relationship building skills but consulting is much more focused on “sales”.  As a consultant you will be required to bring in a certain amount per year in new business or repeat business.  You really need to love selling, writing proposals and networking.

3.  Strategy vs. Implementation

Many consultants cross over to in-house roles because they want to be more involved with the implementation of projects – to be ‘closer to the business’.  Consultants tend to drop in temporarily to develop a strategy or deliver solutions in support of an in-house team.  But when the project is complete the consultant goes on to the next client, whereas the in-house practioner gets to see the project through to the end.  A consultant might not get to see the tangible results of his/her hard work.

4.  Client facing and project focused

Consultants I have worked with, in general, complain of longer hours that are less predictable.  This is due to the client-facing nature of project work.  If a potential client calls on a Friday afternoon and wants a proposal for new work for Tuesday, you may have to work through the weekend.  Everything in consulting is time sensitive and externally driven by client needs and expectations.  This can lead to quite unpredictable hours requiring undying flexibility.

5.  Diversity of sector

Consultants are motivated by the breadth of projects, sectors, and clients they get to work with.   Some larger consultancies, like the Big4, may be structured by sector expertise, where one consultant may focus solely on FMCG or Retail.  But in the smaller boutiques, a consultant could be working across multiple sectors, making it a dynamic way to experience multiple types of businesses.  If you are in-house you would be an expert not only in your sector, but also in your specific commercial business.  You would need to know inside and out the business, which is why many in-house sustainability practioners are internal hires.

So if you are trying to decide which way to go – consulting or in-house (because don’t forget, you need to focus on one or the other track to develop a convincing customised story and CV for the market), weigh these five ways that consulting differs from in-house.  Good luck deciding!

This article originally appeared on Acre


You may also like...

A Deep Dive Into Sustainability Careers

Careers in sustainability are increasing in demand but how do you break into this highly competitive market? What are companies looking for in employees and how do you set yourself apart? Whether you are new to sustainability, a recent graduate, looking to make a career change, or looking to advance your current career in sustainability, this discussion hosted by Net Impact Amsterdam is for you.  DON’T MISS OUTON MORE FREE TIPS Sign Up For Our Newsletter Sign up  

By Shannon Houde
Six secrets to landing your dream job in the impact sector

There’s never any shortage of advice on how to get that next big career break. But the people you really want to hear from? Those that are standing exactly where you want to be. We asked former Walk of Life clients “What’s the one piece of advice you would give to someone looking to land a top job in the impact sector?”. Here is what they said: Find someone to look up to. Then work out how they got there.

By Shannon Houde
12 of the best courses to bolster your sustainability credentials

Sustainability is always evolving. As are the expectations of organisations. The only way to stay ahead of the curve is to regularly set aside time for professional development. But with an abundance of courses to pick from, which ones deserve your time?   As Mahatma Gandhi said: “Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.”   DON’T MISS OUTON MORE FREE TIPS Sign Up For Our Newsletter Sign up The success of any career or company depends on a willingness

By Shannon Houde
6 reasons why it’s ok to hate networking

It might be billed as one of the best ways to get ahead but in reality, relentless networkers end up making more enemies than friends. Is there anything worse than that person who LOVES networking? We’ve all met them. There you are standing at a conference minding your own business when they barrel in, reel off their resume, drop a few high powered names and thrust a business card (“it’s new, embossed, cost a fortune”) into your hand. DON’T MISS

By Shannon Houde


Book a 30-minute trial session with Shannon