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Big Four dominate preferred sustainability consultants list

THE BIG FOUR accountancy firms look set to dominate the expanding market of sustainability consultancy services, according to a new survey of senior executives by analyst firm Verdantix.

The survey of 250 heads of sustainability at large firms with annual revenues of over $250m (£156m) sought to assess their brand preferences for a range of sustainability consulting services. The company questioned executives on their perceptions towards different service providers and their likelihood to engage with them.

It found that Ernst & Young was the preferred provider for sustainability consultancy services, with 39% of respondents having already worked with the company or considering doing so.

KPMG came in second place with 37% of respondents expressing a preference for the company, followed by 33% for Deloitte and 30% for PwC.

The market for sustainability assurance services was also dominated by the Big Four accountancy firms, with 36% of respondents declaring a preference for KPMG and 35% showing an interest in Ernst & Young.

It was a similar story in the sustainability services space, with Microsoft the preferred brand for 39% of executives, followed by SAP, Oracle and IBM.

“Global firms and entrepreneurial ventures are battling it out in the sustainability market to develop brand recognition in multiple countries and achieve brand preference over competitors,” said Patty Satkiewicz, Verdantix industry analyst and author of the report, in a statement.

“The Big Four accounting firms – Deloitte, Ernst & Young, KPMG and PwC – have secured the strongest brand preference in both the sustainability consulting and sustainability assurance markets. Since this is a market which requires deep pockets, the Big Four’s dominance already looks ominous for their competitors.”

However, the report also revealed awareness of sustainability services among senior green executives is far from comprehensive.

The report states that between 24% and 30% of sustainability leaders remain unaware of the Big Four’s sustainability consulting capabilities, while between 29% and 51% are unaware of offerings from other management consultancies.

Moreover, levels of corporate engagement with non-government organisations (NGOs) such as the Carbon Disclosure Project, the Global Reporting Initiative, and WWF are higher than with many sustainability consultancies and software companies.

David Metcalfe, chief executive at Verdantix, said the onus was on corporate marketing departments to beef up their efforts if they wanted to take advantage of the expanding market for sustainability services.

“The Big Four’s global scale and their willingness to make strategic investments have enabled them to out-muscle management consultancies in multiple markets,” he said.

“Even in the assurance market, the Big Four now have higher brand awareness than the global environmental certification players like DNV, SGS and URS Corporation.

“The fact that most not-for-profits in the sustainability sector still have more brand recognition than global software firms like Oracle reflects the step-change that corporate marketing departments need to make to engage with newly appointed sustainability leaders.”

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