Some 39 percent of major companies say that Ernst & Young is the sustainability consulting company they prefer, and Microsoft leads the software category with the same score, according to a Verdantix survey.
KPMG achieved the highest preference score in the sustainability assurance market with 36 percent, and the Global Reporting Initiative topped the preference list (61 percent) among the not-for-profits, according to Verdantix Global Sustainability Survey: Brands.
The global study is based on interviews with 250 senior sustainability decision-makers at firms with annual revenues greater than $250 million, across 21 industries in 13 countries.
KPMG ranked second in the sustainability consulting category with a score of 37, followed by Deloitte (33 percent) and PricewaterhouseCoopers (30 percent). Among the management consulting firms, Accenture achieved a score of 22 percent, beating McKinsey (21 percent) and Bain (15 percent).
Ernst & Young achieved the second highest preference score in the sustainability assurance market with 35 percent — just 1 percentage point behind the No. 1 KPMG — while Bureau Veritas reached 22 percent, the highest brand preference for a supplier outside of the Big Four accounting firms (Deloitte, Ernst & Young, KPMG and PwC).
The Big Four’s dominance in both the sustainability consulting and sustainability assurance markets is bad news for their competitors, says Patty Satkiewicz, Verdantix industry analyst and author of the report. These are markets that require deep pockets, and Deloitte, Ernst & Young, KPMG and PwC have the funding to reach a global scale and make strategic investments, according to Verdantix.
In other categories, SAP has the second highest preference among sustainability management software providers with 38 percent, followed by Oracle (29 percent) and IBM (27 percent). Specialist software firms CarbonSystems and Credit360 both achieved the highest brand preference score of 16 percent.
When it comes to actually hiring a company to provide sustainability management software, however, the majority of sustainability leaders say they are unlikely to engage any of the software firms (see chart).
Among the not-for-profits, Carbon Disclosure Project scored 57 percent, while the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) reached a preference score of 48 percent and the UN Environment Program 44 percent.
A 2011 Verdantix study found only a handful of firms – notably Deloitte and PricewaterhouseCoopers – have excelled when providing major companies with corporate-wide sustainability visions.
A December 2012 report by Environment Analyst said CH2M Hill, Tetra Tech, URS Corporation, Golder Associates, AECOM and 15 other companies are spearheading the global environmental consulting industry with combined EC revenues of $10.6 billion in 2011, a 10.4 percent increase from the previous year.