Environmental consultants contract their services to a wide variety of commercial and industrial clients as well as the United States government. These consultants help to ensure compliance with environmental laws and regulations, perform risk assessments during construction and real estate transactions, and address hazardous waste contamination issues. As environmental issues become integrated with business planning processes, environmental consultants’ roles become more complex.
Look at emerging trends and technologies. According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job outlook for environmental scientists and specialists is expected to grow by 15 percent from 2012-2022. Private environmental consulting firms will see the biggest growth. The environmental consulting field is currently transitioning away from a focus on violations and investigations and toward solutions-based business practices. Examples include a move toward pollution prevention rather than cleanup, and the inclusion of environmental variables into product development rather than re-engineering the product after environmental issues are uncovered.
Identify opportunities in your geographic market. You can do some environmental consulting work in any part of the country. Examples include pre-purchase land surveys and pre-development environmental hazard surveys. However, specific regions lend themselves to area-specific opportunities. An environmental consultant in a beach community might evaluate the environmental impact of an oceanfront development. A consultant in an oil-rich area could receive a contract to evaluate the effects of past oil leakage on a potential residential community site. Finally, a mountains-based consultant could evaluate the impact of a new highway system on area ecosystems.
Educate yourself so you can educate your clients. Before you accept consulting business, learn about and obtain reference materials on two subjects: federal environmental laws that apply across the United States and environmental laws and regulations relative to the area or areas in which you will do business. Finally, learn about both sides of the “hot button” environmental issues in your service area. You will provide objective information upon which your clients can make business and policy decisions; so you must have an understanding of the underlying issues.
Get a business license and insurance. Check with your city or county clerk’s office for business license requirements. Work with a commercial insurance agent to obtain the proper coverage for your specific needs. Finally, enhance your credibility with professional association memberships.
Target industry websites and publications. Focus on industry-specific media used by prospective clients. For example, reach the commercial real estate industry through land development magazines and websites. For renewable energy clients, create a presence in alternative energy media. Choose a relevant topic for which you can provide concrete expert information, and then write an article for free. This is a powerful way to present yourself as a knowledgeable source.
Conduct an environmental forum on a hot issue. Once you’ve familiarized yourself with a local environmental issue, schedule an environmental forum at a local college or university. Invite parties on both sides of the controversial issue to present their points. Finally, discuss the educational role the environmental consultant plays in the process. Conduct follow-up sessions with both parties.
Based in North Carolina, Felicia Greene has written professionally since 1986. Greene edited sailing-related newsletters and designed marketing programs for the New Bern, N.C. "Sun Journal" and New Bern Habitat ReStore. She earned a Bachelor of Science in business administration from the University of Baltimore.