Aspire Hub - Is the grass always greener? In-house vs Consultancy

The Aspire Hub recently hosted our fourth webinar for new and aspiring CRS professionals, considering the topic ‘Is the grass always greener? In-house vs consultancy’. The webinar aimed to give an insight into the similarities and differences between CRS roles based within an organisation and those providing a third-party insight on CRS strategy to companies.

Three brilliant panellists joined our moderator from the Aspire Hub committee to share their insights and experience:

Stephanie Taviner (Moderator) - Responsible Procurement Sustainability and Risk Specialist, IHG Hotels & Resorts

Oliver Refson - Sustainability and Quality Manager, Axis Europe

Regan Leahy - Partner, Carnstone

Harry Foreman - Consultant, Seismic

If you missed the event, you can view the recording here, and read some key takeaways from the event below.


How different is the day to day between in-house and consultancy?

We quickly saw that a typical week for each of our panellists looks very different depending on the specific role. In consultancy, it is likely that your work will be varied as many consultants work across different sectors and specialisms. In-house roles tend to be focussed on the CRS issues that apply to your industry and what your company specifically can do to be more sustainable.


What skills are most valuable?

While the day-to-day work across both avenues can look quite different, a passion and enthusiasm for CRS and good people skills emerged as valuable skills in both. As the issues CRS is addressing are ever-changing, we need to be constantly learning to stay relevant and impactful, so a genuine interest in the work is vital. We are also driving change in our roles and people need to buy into you as well as what you’re championing, so being personable and a good communicator are also essential. Project management is also often an important skill, especially in consultancy, as there are many moving parts in developing strategies and working with multiple clients and stakeholders. The basics of time management and an awareness of the steps required to meet your stakeholders’ goals will set you up well.

What are some of the key trends in CRS at the moment?

Climate change came out top of the agenda for all of our panellists, unsurprising given the recent COP26 meetings. Focus is shifting to companies setting net zero targets and there is a key role for CRS professionals in educating the wider business on the need for all business areas to work together to achieve these goals. Another big area of development is the increasing focus on transparency, with a range of ESG reporting requirements under development both by voluntary standard setters and governments. B-corp is an example of a framework which many companies are choosing to adopt as it offers a robust set of criteria to ensure the changes companies make are meaningful, avoiding the risk of greenwashing.

Why did you change from in-house to consultancy?

Both of our consultant panellists felt that there can sometimes be a limit to progression and opportunities with in-house roles as CRS teams in lots of companies are small. They felt that a move to consultancy broadened their options and also gave them the opportunity to develop cross-sector and cross-industry knowledge. On the other hand, in-house roles can offer the opportunity to really get to know an organisation and its sustainability risks and opportunities. Our in-house panellist said that he has looked for roles in industries and companies which he finds particularly interesting, and which have a purpose he believes in. 

What do you look for when recruiting?

For entry level CRS roles, the panellists suggested that transferable skills are really important. This might include experience in teamwork, writing, project management and interpersonal skills. Technical expertise can be helpful - for example if you have experience from a degree in a particular topic this can be desirable in roles which include understanding changing policies, risks and opportunities and translating that into advice for organisations.

The biggest take-aways from the discussion were that there is a huge variety of roles in CRS, and what the best role looks like will be different for everyone. A passion for sustainability, a willingness to learn and good people skills are at the heart of success in this industry and networking can open more doors than you might think.