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Keeping you in-the-know on environmental, social and governance developments

Recently, I’ve seen announcements from at least one major law firm and a consulting firm launching “fractional ESG support.” Since most of my career has been in various forms of consulting/advisory, I initially considered this just new words for consulting. However, that may be an oversimplification and fractional ESG may actually be something to consider.

There has long been a difficult dynamic between clients and their consultants/advisors when it comes to answering quick questions or doing very short projects. Retainers in the legal field are common and provide an excellent solution for this, but are far less common in the environmental and social consulting world. Consultants are therefore faced with the dilemma of responding to quick client requests that are non-billable, facing internal billable hour pressures and being responsive to clients in the spirit of customer service and business development.

With so much uncertainty about what ESG is, the lack of internal subject matter expertise, how important it may be to individual companies and what all is involved, many companies struggle to get answers to basic questions. These need to be answered before companies commit funds to larger projects to which consultants/advisors will be responsive. It is a bit like the chicken or the egg. On some level, fractional ESG support may offer a solution. As it was explained to me,

“Fractional ESG helps with challenges in finding the right expertise at the right time…  it [can be] hard to find subject matter experts available in short increments rather than for long projects … [and] time consuming to find a part-time ESG associate to help with day-to-day work during a busy season. Needs can vary a lot and budgets are tight… [Fractional ESG] also allows consultants to take their expertise to a new industry for short project. Or add on a few hours in addition to their full time job.”

Yes it is still consulting, but structured in a way that seems help balance the needs of clients and the pressures within external advisors. Don’t forget that members have free access to our Q&A Forum which can help in a similar way. Submit an anonymous ESG/DEI question and our staff will post an answer for you – usually within 24 hours.

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The Editor

Lawrence Heim has been practicing in the field of ESG management for almost 40 years. He began his career as a legal assistant in the Environmental Practice of Vinson & Elkins working for a partner who is nationally recognized and an adjunct professor of environmental law at the University of Texas Law School. He moved into technical environmental consulting with ENSR Consulting & Engineering at the height of environmental regulatory development, working across a range of disciplines. He was one… View Profile