GreenBiz Group, in partnership with Siemens, recently hosted a webinar titled “Extending the Team: The Role of Outsourcing to Achieve Sustainability Objectives,” featuring speakers Ari Kobb, Director Energy & Sustainability, Siemens; Michelle Toelkes, Corporate Risk Control Manager, Hallmark Cards, Inc.; Jenny Cross, Vice President Corporate Sustainability, Mohawk Industries; and John Davies, Vice President & Senior Analyst of Greenbiz.

Siemens shared a recent study performed to determine a comprehensive understanding of outsourcing as a method to achieve sustainability goals and targets within companies. With 235 respondents participating – from industry segments such as consumer goods, technology, service providers, retail, industrial goods, and healthcare – they found that use of outside consultants to meet set sustainability goals is common across all sectors.

After diving into the findings of the research, here are some key takeaways about how companies utilize third-parties to reach sustainability goals:

Almost everyone outsources: Nearly 80% of firms work with consultants for sustainability efforts due to the need for specialized expertise, and simply a lack of internal resources. The sector most seeking third-party support was industrial, with 90% outsourcing, while the lowest sector was financial services at 63%. Not surprisingly, larger firms are more likely to partner with third-parties, with 88% of companies worth $10 billion or higher stating that they use support.

Sustainability targets are increasing and diversifying: About 54% of larger firms surveyed indicated that they have five or more sustainability goals in place. While 60% of all survey respondents indicated emissions reduction is the highest priority, an overwhelming number indicated energy, waste and water reduction as leading priorities. However, sustainability goals have diversified beyond emissions and resource conservation, as respondents indicated supply chain (35%), renewable energy (34%) LEED or other certifications (30%), product design (29%), and product sales (16%) were also priorities.

Implementation support is valued more than strategic support: Once again, the larger firms ($10B and higher) and mid-sized firms ($1B to $10B) tend to use third-party support for implementation, most commonly tapping into the support of engineering and environmental consultants. When it comes to green building and LEED implementation specifically, 61% of smaller firms look to independent consultants for support, and 63% of mid-sized firms and 49% of large firms look to engineering and environmental consultants.

In general, companies are more often providing their own strategic direction and relying on third-parties for implementation needs. Within large firms, 94% of respondents are responsible for sustainability strategy, while only 43% are responsible for energy planning and conservation.

The chart below demonstrates the variety of services that third-parties are brought on to support, and the varying degree of need for strategy vs. implementation.

Above: How third-parties are used in sustainability strategy and implementation (firms > $1B only).

Based on feedback from the panelists, companies do not feel that outsourcing for sustainability services is a draw back or less integrated with achieving company goals. Instead, the added resources and specific expertise for implementation was beneficial to meeting targets.

Interested in learning more? You can download the full presentation here.

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