Published: Nov. 30, 2020 By

Student consultantsAt the Leeds School of Business students have many opportunities to apply knowledge to real-world problems, and to build their professional networks. Sustainability consulting is one area of particular interest to the students CESR interacts with, and there are a number of student consulting clubs which focus on experiential learning. CESR supports these clubs with training and mentors, such as the two-part intensive Sustainability Consulting Workshop CESR is presenting this spring. Led by Kimberly Kosmenko, owner of a Certified B Corporation impact consulting practice, and Masters of the Environment (MENV) instructor, this event will help students hone their consulting skills and get them ready for client-facing work. 

Sustainability consulting clubs

There are three primary student consulting clubs with which CESR works. The Leeds Consulting Group (LCG) educates undergraduates in how to use consulting as a framework and set of tools for solving business problems. The LCG has worked on far ranging projects including ways to support economic development in rural CO with the Boettcher Foundation, sustainability initiatives behind the cloud, and how to use blockchain in the Amazon to mitigate the theft of biological wealth. 

At the graduate level, Leeds Social Impact Consultants (LSIC) runs in the fall and works with companies to address everything from corporate communication strategies to B-impact assessments and certification processes. Through these projects, students put their management, analytic and communication skills into practice. This fall, LSIC worked with 27 student consultants paired with nine companies.

In the spring, Board Fellows gives graduate students the opportunity to apply their business skills to projects in the non-profit and social enterprise space. Kallie Beebe (MBA '21), co-president of Board Fellows, says that “students develop a deeper understanding of nonprofit organization and board operations, and a strong command of how to design an MBA-level strategic project to best accommodate this type of business model.” 

While the project specifics vary, all of these clubs offer students an invaluable opportunity to gain real world experience and build their professional network.

What employers are looking for

Some of the companies which worked with LSIC this past semester as clients, shared what they believe makes for a successful consultant. Anna Hargis, herself a consultant to inClover Research, looks for people who are self-directed and good problem solvers. Bridget Molloy, founder of Bridget’s Botanicals, adds that being outgoing and able to take initiative are critical skills, as is the ability to address projects holistically. And Morgan Agho, Chief of Staff at Meati Foods, says that consultants need to work well in teams, ask good questions, pivot as new information comes up, and be able to identify and evaluate industry trends.  

These employers all agree that the skills students learn through sustainability consulting training and projects are similar to those they look for when hiring more generally. The three most important skills they note are organization, communication, and the ability to analyze and interpret data.

CESR support for experiential learning

CESR supports students who want to hone their sustainability consulting skills in a number of ways. This fall we recruited nine mentors who themselves work as sustainability consultants, and paired them with the LSIC project teams. This allowed students to access just-in-time support throughout their project work. Thaala Looper (MBA ‘21), co-president of LSIC, says that “providing mentors to each project was highly beneficial - many students have communicated how incredible their mentors are and their helpfulness!” 

CESR also offers hands-on sustainability consulting skills training and workshops, such as our upcoming two-part series. These interactive sessions will cover how sustainability professionals approach their roles. Part I will look at ​​​defining metrics for measuring sustainability, terminology and data collection. Students will test drive different management tools and software platforms, practice data analysis, and learn how to use data to illustrate impact. Part II will dive into how to help a company develop sustainability strategies. Students will create a proposed scope of work for a company, and receive feedback.

Students who are interested in a career in sustainability consulting can sign up for these upcoming workshops today. We strongly encourage students to attend both workshops, as Part II builds on information covered in Part I.

Registration information

Sustainability Consulting Skills Workshop Part I - Technical Consulting Skills for Corporate Sustainability Assessments | Jan. 26 | 12:30-2:30pm | Zoom

Learn how sustainability consultants and internal sustainability advisors ​​​define metrics for success, and collect and validate sustainability data. Compare tools and software, engage in analytical activities and experience the ways consultants turn data into impact.
Sustainability Consulting Skills Workshop Part II - Strategic Consulting for Sustainability & Social Responsibility | Feb. 2 | 12:30-2:30pm | Zoom

Gain hands-on experience determining the appropriate consulting scope to help a client achieve a meaningful sustainability strategy and receive feedback on your proposal. Registrants are strongly encouraged to attend Part I before attending this workshop.