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Consultants Review 2020 winners announced

Almost a decade ago, Inside Waste launched its annual Consultants Review. The review gives companies, organisations and councils the opportunity to rate the work that consultants have done for them in the waste management and environment space.

The 2020 Consultants Review winners are based on results from a survey conducted in late 2019, which asked respondents a series of questions about which consultants they have dealt with and how they rank them. Similar to previous years, companies were divided into large and small firms to determine the overall 2020 winners based on the number of projects and project value categories.

As with previous years, Inside Waste also wanted to recognise the firms that did well in specific streams, so we have kept sub- categories that allow firms to stand out for the great work they do in certain areas within the industry. These categories are:

• Waste auditing;
• Logistics – collection and transfer studies;
• Landfill – design and operations; • Design and engineering of facilities;
• Technology/infrastructure reviews/evaluations;
• Strategy, policy and planning; and • Economic evaluation and modelling.

Additionally, in 2020 we have brought back the awards portion of the consultants review. Inside Waste wanted to acknowledge winning firms with a certificate that gives them well-deserved recognition for their hard work, which they can reflect on for many years to come.

This portion was removed in 2019, but we took on feedback from consultants that expressed their desire to see the awards return. We are glad to bring it back and we will share the winners with you in due course.

In keeping with protocol from previous years, we have also ensured that only non-consultants’ opinions have helped shaped this review in order to create a fair result. Each participant was prompted to only submit one set of responses and this was further vetted to ensure that responses were fair and unique.

It is important to us that this review highlights the work that consultants do across the board and that we reflect this through the opinions and experiences of companies and individuals that have used consultants’ services.

We received more than 150 responses to the survey that helped shape the 2020 review. These responses came from a variety of appropriate stakeholders:
• Local government – 38 per cent; • State government – 9 per cent;
• Federal government – 1 per cent; • Private waste contractors/service providers – 35 per cent; and
• “Other” waste services – 17 per cent.

Listed under “other” were organisations such as not-for- profits, universities and community developers. These percentages show the vast array of sectors and organisations that consultants in Australia help serve.

We thank all of the survey participants for their valuable input, which has helped shape this year’s consultants review. This feedback helped determine which firms took the spotlight as the overall winners as well as those excelling in sub-categories within the waste management and environment sector.

Many of the consultants reviewed in the survey received positive feedback from participants. But, several stood out for the exceptional work they offered clients. These were the ones that were recognised as the top performers by a majority of survey participants and ultimately, the ones that came out as the overall winners.

Congratulations to all winners and finalists. And we would like to extend our thanks to all consultants who are helping to improve the waste industry by providing valuable information and advice to companies, governments and organisations.

Overall winners

GHD and SLR Consulting were ranked as the winners in the large consultancies showdown based on number of projects undertaken and the value of projects, respectively (see Table 1). In 2019, both companies ranked in third place – GHD for project value and SLR for the number of projects. Their ongoing recognition on the leaderboard shows that both companies’ commitment to the industry continues to pay off.

Arcadis was recognised for its efforts – coming in second place for the number of projects undertaken. Arcadis specialises in a raft of areas, including (but not limited to) design and engineering of facilities; technology/infrastructure and reviews/evaluations; strategy, policy and planning; and economic evaluation and modelling.

Similarly, Golder Associates was recognised as a leader – coming in second place in the project value section of the consultants review.

Taking out the overall top small consultancies prize for 2020 is MRA Consulting. The company was ranked number one for both the number of projects undertaken and project value. The company received high praise from survey participants who had enlisted MRA’s help throughout last year. Talis took out second place in both sections for the small consultancies – proving it was leading numerous valuable projects in the waste management sector. Third place was split between A.Prince Consulting, which was recognised for most projects undertaken, and Rawtec, which was recognised for projects by value.

A.Prince Consulting specialises in waste auditing; logistics – collection and transfer studies; procurement – tender development and evaluation; and much more.

Rawtec specialises in areas such as strategy, policy and planning; economic evaluation and modelling; education, training and community consultation; and environment/ greenhouse management.

Winners by category

While the winners for the top large and small consultancies were recognised for their overall contribution to the industry, we also wanted to acknowledge the firms that excelled in particular areas of the waste management and resource recovery industry.

The “best in” awards highlight the top consultancies in sub- categories. Consultancies were ranked on their performance in area that they specialised in. Prior to the release of the survey, Inside Waste contacted each firm to confirm
which categories were relevant to the expertise they offered. Survey respondents were given a list of consultants to choose from, but they could also opt to add to the list if they wanted to acknowledge a firm that had not been noted. Table 3 highlights the firms that placed first, second and third in each sub- category.

Survey participants have their say

We asked survey participants to tell us what they liked about the consultants they worked with. Here is what they had to say:

“A.Prince Consulting have been a key consulting firm in the early stages of the container deposit schemes in both NSW and ACT – very customer focused and knowledgeable in the waste management industry,” one participant said.

“We find MRA Consulting is unbiased and a fairer company to deal with as an SME,” another respondent said.

“BlueSphere Environmental has a knowledgeable and client-focused team. Their experience is readily applied across a range of sites. They consistently demonstrate willingness to explain matters in layperson terms and work capably with both the client and EPA,” one respondent said.

Rawtec staff were commended for their “passionate and extremely knowledgeable” approach. The respondent mentioned that Rawtec is willing to go the extra mile to add value as “they truly believe in what they are doing”.

“Great service and commitment from Great Forest Australia – highly committed, knowledgeable and walk the talk. They work off values set in first principles to enhancing environmental outcomes and give evidence based advice and calculations based on extensive knowledge of the industry,” another participant said about environmental consultant Great Forest Australia.

“Talis are good to work with. A small team that works professionally and is client focused,” according to one respondent.

“In Victoria, SMEC, Senversa, and Golder are leading the field in landfill design, management and rehabilitation,” another said.

From a broader context, survey participants enjoyed the help consultants offered in moments where they were time poor and needed advice from consultants that had knowledge of specific matters.

“Consultants are being used more lately due to time restraints and changes in legislation which impacts day to day operations rendering management time poor requiring consultants to assist,” one respondent said.

“We still select consultants that offer value while recognising experience and methodology. We look for quality and outcomes; not a sales pitch,” was the advice from another respondent.

Another participant spoke about the need for good relationships between local government and consultancies. “As local government, we highly value consultants who are flexible, understand the priorities of councils, and are committed to delivering outcomes (not just documents). Unfortunately, sometimes there is a big disparity in skills from what is included in the proposal, to those who actually deliver the project.”

One respondent supported small consultancies for the services they offer. “I find the smaller more ‘boutique’ consultants are more interested in your business and provide a tailored approach that suits projects and budgets.”

Another participant called for consultants to offer greater help to businesses in rural areas. “It is difficult to engage suitably qualified consultants and attract them to rural areas as the jobs are usually smaller than the city jobs and they are less inclined to want the smaller tasks,” they said.

“Subject matter experts are always valuable but that value could be improved with an increase in commercial acumen and more attention given to the ultimate goal as determined by the client,” another participant said.

Changes in spending

We give organisations, businesses and government bodies the chance to participate in this survey each year, as they will continue to engage consultants to help with their endeavours to improve environmental and waste management impacts in Australia.

Because of this, we also asked participants to share how their spending is tracking and their expected expenditure on consultants in 2020.

Thirty-four per cent of respondents expect an increase in spending of more than 10 per cent in the first half of 2020.

With more than a third expected to allocate more funds to engaging waste consultants this year, consultants can expect to see continued, if not greater, engagement with the waste industry. A jump in spending was also reflected in 2019 figures. When asked how much their spend on waste consultants had changed from FY 2017/18 to 2018/19, almost half of the respondents (48 per cent) indicated the spend had increased by more than 10 per cent. Thirty-two per cent had indicated there was no change in spending, and 12.4 per cent had increased their spend by less than 10 per cent. Only 7.4 per cent had decreased their spend on waste consultants.

To conclude, we would like to congratulate all consultancies on their continued efforts to help those in the waste industry. We would also like to thank all participants of the survey, who have helped shape the 2020 Consultants Review.