The environmental market is flat-out booming, with significant growth due to social and scientific awareness, industry responses to climate change and the focus on environmental social governance (ESG) and the change in presidential administrations in 2021. President Biden’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is initiating new rulemakings to reverse the rollbacks in the previous administration, especially as those relate to climate change. Additionally, he has requested an EPA budget increase of more than 20 percent for the coming fiscal year.
We’ll also see large growth due to infrastructure spending.
But to be responsive to these demands, WSP USA and other environmental firms must build up our staff resources. There’s not only a war for new talent, but also to retain key employees as companies seek to recruit industry veterans and specialists.
Looking ahead, many leaders from the Baby Boom generation are retiring or will soon. So, we’re intensely focused on hiring new grads and even working with high schools to educate students about the growing opportunities in the environmental and engineering space.
2. What does WSP USA have to do internally to prepare for the generational change in leadership?
Provide more opportunities for training. There’s tremendous talent at WSP and we need to offer more training so that junior- and mid-level staff can level up to meet the needs of clients and the demands of projects. Also, specialties are always evolving, and to keep pace, extra training is required.
One emerging specialty where we’re especially focused on building our internal capacity and capabilities is in climate-related financial disclosure and analyses. I’m very excited about bringing on the experienced team at CFA, a small consultancy that has achieved robust credibility with multi-lateral funders like the World Bank as well as a range of private-sector organizations and governments.
3. How is the climate crisis changing financial practices, and what is WSP doing for clients in this regard?
This is an emerging priority that has developed real traction over the last several years. Companies are facing new demands from investors and lenders to assess and disclose their climate risks—both the transition risks of changing energy and environmental policies and the physical risks such as extreme weather and sea level rise—and to explain how they’re addressing those risks.
The Task Force on Climate Related Financial Disclosure, Global Reporting Initiative, Sustainability Accounting Standards Board, International Integrated Reporting Framework Board, and other organizations are demanding higher levels of integrity and transparency around environmental, social and governance (ESG), and climate generally.
We’re expanding our pool of skilled staff to meet these growing demands, and we’re drawing on the recent CFA acquisition and other internal experts on climate, resilience and sustainability to provide cross training and specialized support. The big picture here is that our service portfolio continues to evolve from traditional environmental science, design and engineering to robust advisory capabilities around this epic transition that is happening.
The recent Verdantix Green Quadrant report, which ranked WSP along with ERM, EY and PwC as the four leaders in sustainability and ESG consulting, reflects what we’ve already accomplished.