Are you a sustainability manager responsible for the carbon reporting of your organisation and do you wish to optimise this process? Is the market requesting insight into the eco footprint of your product, but is Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) new to you? Or are you an HSE professional in charge of the implementation of regulations such as REACH or CLP and could you use support on these matters? Then you may be considering hiring a consultant. However, employing a consultant can be a significant investment, especially for SMEs. Additionally, you may be unsure about how to choose the ‘right’ consultant for your needs. To give you some guidance in this process, we share 4 things with you that we think are important to consider when hiring a consultant.
1) What background and/or qualifications must the consultant have?
If you want to put a cosmetic product on the market, you will need a certified toxicologist to perform a product safety assessment for you. If on the other hand your project concerns the performance of a full-blown LCA study in accordance to ISO 14040/44, you will be looking for someone with a solid background in sustainability and modelling. When choosing a consultant, consider what qualifications, knowledge, experience and/or skills (s)he must have. Even better, ask the consultant what background (s)he him/herself considers key to the performance of his job. Compare answers, and see what makes sense to you.
The sustainability spectrum has many facets, and the Ecomatters team embodies all required knowledge and skills to support you in any of them. We are specialised in sustainability as well as chemical safety, and collectively we have expertise covering the fields of life cycle management, product legislation, (eco-) toxicology, finance, economics, marketing and data management.
2) Do you already have good experience with a consultant? Or did the consultant get good performance reviews?
This one speaks for itself. When hiring a new consultant, it is important to know that other organisations are positive about their experience with him/her. If you yourself already had a good experience, it is very convenient to work with the same consultant on the next project.
This is as true for our clients as it is for us. We invest in long-term customer relations, because we find that truly getting to know your company culture, your way of working and your expectations helps us to fine-tune the customisation of our services and support you better. If you are interested in some examples of the work we do for our clients, have a look at our projects.
3) Have you clearly defined what you need the consultant to do?
Nobody wants to pay for services that are not needed. Scoping a project thoroughly and defining the project activities, respective time budgets and roles and responsibilities are therefore essential. However, thorough knowledge of and experience with the topic are generally indispensable to the adequate scoping of projects. After all, you want to be sure that you did not overlook important project aspects and will not be faced with additional work and unexpected costs at a later stage.
If your organisation already has the internal know-how required for a project, but experiences a peak in the workload or faces a particular deadline, you may be looking for a party to whom to outsource (part) of the work. In this case, Ecomatters can provide you with cost-efficient support, even at short notice. Our skillful people can help you get things done (more) efficiently and on time. If on the other hand your company has little to none internal knowledge on the matter, it may not be feasible to precisely define what you need the consultant to do before hiring him/her. You may find that in some cases you will need a consultant to hire a consultant. Ecomatters’ approach in this situation? We aim at working with our customers rather than for them. Especially for smaller companies, we find that engaging in a cooperative relationship rather than simply outsourcing projects leads to the most satisfying and useful results. Not only does it allow them to remain in control of their project and budget, the project will be performed in line with the company culture, which proofs to be a very important factor determining the usability and integration of the outcomes.
4) Does the consultant offer you an individual solution?
In our discipline, one size hardly ever fits all. Even seemingly straightforward projects, such as the hazard classification and labelling of a client’s chemical mixture, can prove to be very challenging when, for example, the available supplier Safety Data Sheets (SDSs) are of low quality.
In cases where a ‘service from the rack’ will not suffice, Ecomatters likes to apply a phased approach. We start with a preparatory (or orientation) phase, in which we review the available data and the (regulatory) requirements or guidelines relevant to your product, and determine the project’s starting position. This phase is concluded with a first project deliverable: an elaborate, reliable and understandable project plan, containing an overview of the subsequent project steps.
We find that although such a preparatory phase does not require a large financial investment, it offers great value. It enables us to subsequently offer you a highly customised and specified offer for the execution phase of the project. For you, the insights shared in the project plan can be of great importance in your internal decision-making processes. Moreover, the alignment of goals and expectations is guaranteed prior to the start of the project: once you decide to commit to the project, we will hit the ground running.
Checklist to hire a good consultant
At Ecomatters, we take our clients very seriously. We understand that as we work for companies, we play a part in the larger organisation. To us, respect for our clients’ choices, business decisions and company culture is key. We appreciate our clients’ critical view on the style and type of support they wish to receive and their conscious choice for our consultancy services.
If you would like more guidance in choosing a consultant, maybe the Checklist to hire a good consultant is useful to you. This checklist was published by the Directors’ Contact Group (DCG) of the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) to help SMEs find the right support. It contains questions that guide organisations in specifying their need for support and choosing a consultant that meets their needs best. Although the DCG checklist was established in the context of the 2018 REACH registration deadline, the questions are applicable to any situation in which one considers employing a consultant.