In 2023, a Linkedin study revealed that the job of sustainable development consultant was the 9th most sought-after job in France over the last 5 years.
So why do companies call upon sustainable development consultants?
Why do we hear so much about the CSR consultant profession?
Also called sustainable development consultant or carbon consultant, many of you are tempted by this profession, which is in great demand by companies... But what is stopping you from taking the plunge?
After talking with many of you, we see 2 blocking points: you have the imposter syndrome and you are afraid of not finding customers as a freelancer.
Today, we'll take a look at all of this and answer your questions!
Don't have impostor syndrome
First of all, it is necessary to demystify the job of CSR consultant and to recall what it consists in. If not everyone is cut out to do this job, it is however likely that you have more expertise than you think!
What is the job of a CSR consultant?
The role of the CSR (or sustainable development) consultant is to implement strategies and action plans so that the company has a better environmental and/or social impact, while ensuring its economic stability.
The CSR consultant can work internally within the company, as an external consultant (EY, Deloitte...), in a specialized firm (Quantis, Utopies, Des Enjeux et des Hommes...) or as an independent consultant. His main objective is to promote a sustainable management of the company, which implies very varied missions and skills!
What are the skills of a CSR consultant?
After exchanging with different consultants, here are the hardskills they suggested we acquire to be successful:
- master the standards and methodologies of environmental assessment
- know the technical and technological innovations of the company's sector of activity
- be able to analyze and synthesize economic, social and environmental performance
- understand and master the regulations in force (with Indigo's webinars)
On the other hand, if we look at the soft skills expected from a CSR consultant, we can mention :
- Posture and listening skills: this implies knowing how to translate sometimes very scientific and complex subjects into a more business-like language and into clear and engaging supports.
- Analytical skills and ability to synthesize: while working for your client, you will have to scrutinize and analyze a large number of documents. Learn how to find the most important information!
- Curiosity and strength of proposal: your client expects you to propose innovative solutions to stand out from the competition. To do this, you must be attentive to the market and it evolves quickly!
- Pedagogy, adaptation and diplomacy: you will have to deal with changing personalities who will not always go your way. It's up to you to adapt to your interlocutor so that he or she applies your recommendations!
- Project management, organizational skills and rigor: you will be juggling 10 different projects on issues and sectors that also vary. You need to be a professional organizer to manage all your projects simultaneously!
The CSR consultant profession is in high demand
According to the Linkedin study, the CSR consultant job is the 9th most sought after job in France. This is unprecedented!
Companies are asking for experts who master SBT, TCFD, the implementation of scenarios, extra-financial reporting... 50% of the requests concern decarbonation strategies.
So don't worry, companies need you for many reasons:
CSR regulations are becoming increasingly stringent
The CSRD will gradually come into force in 2024 and 2028 to harmonize and improve the accessibility and quality of ESG data. The CSRD will modify four European texts: the Accounting Directive, the Transparency Directive, the Audit Directive and the Audit Regulation.
The result? More than 50,000 companies in Europe will be obliged to establish a non-financial reporting on their CSR commitments by 2025.
Companies want to be efficient
When a consultant implements an action plan to reduce your GHG emissions by reducing the electricity consumption of your buildings, you are making money! In fact, the economic performance of companies implementing CSR practices increases by 13% on average.
CSR is a selection criterion for future employees
Adopting a sustainable development approach will appeal to its clients, who are increasingly including this criterion in their calls for tender. It will also improve its employer brand since 83% of employees involved in a CSR initiative on behalf of their company recommend their employer. Finally, calling on a professional shows your stakeholders a real commitment.
Using a CSR consultant saves companies time
Companies do not always have the time to train an internal person dedicated to these subjects. CSR concepts are sometimes very abstract and time consuming. Having a full-time CSR consultant to manage this is a relief for companies!
If you want to know more about the daily life of a CSR consultant, you can find the testimonials on Indigo's blog.
6 things to know before starting as a CSR consultant
1. You don't need to have been a consultant to start as a freelance CSR consultant
If some people have been in the consulting world before starting their own business, it is not the only way. You can train on your own and support people in your network on a voluntary basis to start!
2. Freelancing allows you to say what you want (or almost)
Being a freelancer gives you freedom of speech and choice! On sustainability issues, you can tell your client "you are going straight to the wall". On the other hand, it implies to abandon some subjects and to select: you cannot be multi-experts and must choose your positioning. Not easy when you come from a consulting firm!
3. You can start as an auto-entrepreneur and then create a SASU
The auto-entrepreneur status is convenient because it does not require heavy administrative steps! Once you have started your business (and you don't have any administrative phobia), you can create your SASU.
The SASU allows you to do subcontracting if you have to build teams
4. The main source of customers: network and word of mouth
It takes time to build your address book. So before you go out and approach people you don't know, go to your friends and family, your former colleagues and your network and offer them your services! Everything is based on the trust of those who have already worked with you and know you
5. It's not the ideal job if you like to work in a team
When you start your own business, you start alone and it is this freedom that is also interesting! But if you miss the collective, you can always go and work in co-working spaces, get together with other consultants or join associations
6. Continue to educate yourself over and over again
Above all, do not hesitate to read the content published by all the players in the sector (Bon Pote, Quantis, ADEME, Carbone4, etc.), listen to podcasts (Chaleur Humaine, Time to Shift...), make MOOcs or subscribe to the AEF press review because knowledge is accessible! 🥸
For those who want to go even further, the Indigo school offers a 24-hour training: The "Pilot of the climate transition" training. This training, online, is for people who want to get involved in the climate strategy of their organization or at the client, but also gain legitimacy and access to a network of sustainable development professionals.
So there you have it, you now have all the keys to feel legitimate and launch yourself as a CSR consultant!