Engineering firms lead consultancies in race to net zero

31 March 2022 3 min. read

New research shows that the consulting industry’s top players are accelerating their push toward major climate commitments. While the Big Four and the MBB are all investing heavily in their efforts, however, a number of engineering and construction advisories are currently keeping pace with them.

With pressure mounting on the public and private sector to take concrete action to prevent the worst impacts of climate change, major consulting firms have been clamouring to join the race to net zero. This has seen a number of firms aim to hit net zero within a short amount of time, while investing large sums in greening their organisations, and launching a number of dedicated services to help their clients on the same journey.

In a bid to pick out the leaders among the pack, Environment Analyst has evaluated the actions and pledges of the world’s top consulting firms.

Engineering firms lead consultancies in race to net zero

According to the research, the majority of the world’s largest firms offering environmental and sustainability consulting services are now working towards science-based climate commitments. Some are outperforming others, though, with leaders having set and already achieved accelerated carbon reduction goals – while others lag behind in their progress.

Environment Analyst found that 21 of the ‘Global 25’ environment and sustainability consulting leaders – or 84% – have now pledged to achieve a science-based net zero target or equivalent. At the same time, all of the MBB (McKinsey & Company, Bain & Company, Boston Consulting Group) and Big Four (KPMG, PwC, Deloitte, EY) firms assessed in the report were similarly committed.

However, the study also notes that timelines vary markedly. While McKinsey is seen as a leader for its hitting carbon neutrality by 2018, for example, the firm is not on course to hit operational net zero. In contrast, environment and engineering consultancy AECOM represents a market leader in the study, with operational net zero as of 2021, and hitting full SBTi-aligned, value chain net zero by 2030.

Environment Analyst noted in a press release, “[AECOM] is currently in the minority within the Global 25 for its enhanced target-setting, reported progress and roadmap, particularly where the notoriously challenging scope 3 (value chain) greenhouse gas emissions are concerned. AECOM’s ScopeX design initiative launched last year is central to its ESG-focused ‘Sustainable Legacies’ plan with a goal to help reduce the carbon impact of its entire global portfolio of engineering, building and consulting client projects by at least 50% by the end of the decade.”

Still, other consultancies were also rated highly by the analysts. In addition to AECOM and the world’s largest management consulting majors, engineering and sustainability firms ERM and Mott MacDonald also rated highly according to the study, given their expedited climate action programmes.