Tips on Selecting an Environmental Consultant
So what’s the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word Environmental Consultant – tree hugger, hired gun, necessary evil or a valued asset who your company relies on to mitigate risk and expense of environmental challenges ??
Whatever your answer might be, organizations choose to engage an Environmental Consultant because they value “outside” expertise and often need another set of eyes when solving environmental challenges. Environmental Consultants bring specific expertise that clients may not have internally. Because Environmental Consultants are solely focused on environmental matters they can normally complete a project in less time, and accordingly at less expense, than your organization may be able to do with in-house expertise. Client’s of Environmental Consultants are expected to do more with less than ever before and are pulled in multiple directions which limits their ability to form meaningful relationships with regulators or refine their skill sets which can put a strain on and delay getting projects closed.
Among the basic questions that you will need answered when selecting an Environmental Consultant include the following: (1) do they have Errors and Omissions Insurance (a minimum of $1 million is preferable), (2) are they qualified to do the specific task you need addressed, (3) are their fees competitive, (4) do their references check out / do they meet deadlines, (5) are their reports useful and well organized and (6) did the final invoice agree with the proposed fees.
Beyond the basics, the following practical tips are intended to help you make an informed decision when selecting an Environmental Consultant:
Consultants to look for:
Blocking and tackling – answers phone calls and emails within 48 hours and does what they say they are going to do
Focused on mitigating your risk and expense as opposed to trying to expand the project task and fees
Is “pleasantly aggressive” when representing their clients interest with regulators
When identifying a Recognized Environmental Condition (REC) in the Phase I ESA they do not automatically recommend a soil and/or groundwater investigation unless there is a potential due care or similar concern. In fact, some RECs do not warrant further investigation at all.
Newsletters and other marketing materials provides meaningful information on the latest regulatory changes or market developments that their clients can use
Discusses results with their client and furnishes a draft report before recommending additional work
Connects their client to business opportunities and seeks to form long-term partnerships that can move their business forward
Communicates technical report findings in plain English that enables client to make an informed business decision
Doesn’t play lawyer
Excels at forming public/private partnerships and works collaboratively to meet the needs of diverse project stakeholders
Senior Directors approve all reports although junior associates may do the bulk of the field work in order to meet budgetary requirements
Obtains development incentives and other gap financing tools to enable the project to succeed
Refuses to let environmental challenges kill a deal
Consultants to avoid:
Does not provide a clear road map at the beginning of a project.
Evasive on how to close out your project and continues to focus on continuous monitoring and additional phases to be “absolutely certain” that all contamination has been remedied. "More testing” is not a cleanup strategy.
Low bids using inexperienced technicians to do the bulk of the work which can lead to data gaps and change orders
They try to be all things to all people and do not solely focus on solving environmental challenges
Tries to impress you with acronyms without simplifying technical verbiage
Suggests the most expensive alternative when a more cost effective approach may be just as reasonable. Focused only on “Dig ‘n Haul” remediation even though it’s the most costly alternative
Looking to do projects more than they are interested in serving the client’s long-term interests
Hidden in their Terms and Conditions, you may find that they limit their liability only to the extent of the fees in their proposal
Technically astute and can recite the regulations verbatim but is weak on assisting with business decisions
Proposes additional work that is an inherent conflict. For example, suggesting asbestos abatement as well as asbestos inspections – the fox cannot guard the henhouse
Newsletters are merely brag pieces – new office, new employee, recent awards or announcing another “great” project
Refuses to provide a written proposal (yes this happens)
Businesses turn to Environmental Consultants because they need their technical expertise, ability to navigate the maze of Local, State and Federal regulations and to provide cost-effective solutions that move the client’s agenda forward. As with any other service industry sector, there are varied levels of qualified Environmental Consultants and different approaches to solving environmental challenges. It is imperative that client’s do their due diligence and get their questions answered in great detail before they engage an Environmental Consultant for their next task.
Article researched and written by ASTI Environmental’s Director of Development Doug Brown. He can be reached at 810/599-8131 + 616/957-5601 or you can drop him an
email at email@example.com