Reducing the Carbon Footprint of Solutions Consultants

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Thomas Edwards


Jul 12, 2021


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In recent years, there has been an increase in pressure for individuals and business alike to reduce their negative impact on the environment. An increasing number of countries have now committed to reducing their carbon footprint; as much as 55% in the next 8 years in some cases. It's certainly something that many of us are more aware of, yet there is still more to be done.

I see myself as being fairly green. I make a conscious decision about the products and services I buy based on how environmentally friendly they are. I ride a bicycle when I can and I try to reduce the amount of red meat I eat. However, business travel is something that many Solutions Consultants, myself included, cannot escape.

Credit: Unsplash

Does "people buy from people" still hold true?

Before the pandemic hit in March 2020, for every important meeting with a prospect we had a choice; have a video call or visit them in person.

The benefits of visiting clients in person are well-documented; people tend to open up more about their pain during discovery. Building a relationship with a client is essential to becoming a trusted advisor. We know that in the world of competitive sales, every 1% counts. If two vendors have very similar solutions, the same pitch, the same credentials, the prospect will surely only base their decision on their existing relationship with the vendors. Building a relationship through an on-site visit could be the difference between winning and losing a deal.

Even a simple handshake helps us to create bonds: a 2008 study from the University of Iowa found that the gesture helped release oxytocin in the brain, in turn building trust between strangers and helping to sustain co-operation.

There are practical reasons for visiting a client too. There is always a risk of technology not working. Early in my career I was due to be presenting the final solution demonstration to a strategic client after responding to their RFP. Up until that point, the opportunity was going in our favour and we had always used our tried and tested web conferencing tool. However, for the final presentation with all the most senior stakeholders and decision-makers, the client requested that we used theirs. In my naivety, I happily agreed. On the day, we quickly found that our internal IT firewall was blocking us from accessing their web conferencing tool properly. The connection would drop out sporadically and stakeholders complained of not being able to hear us.

We later found out that we had unexpectedly lost the deal and that our competitor had done the presentation face-to-face with the client. It was an important lesson for me to learn not to rely on technology early in my career. I will always wonder if we could have won that deal if we had have presented face-to-face too.

Finally, it has been estimated that 65% of our communication is non-verbal. In the pre-Covid world, many people were uncomfortable with turning on their webcam which made 'video calls' little more than just 'calls'. Without video, it was impossible to judge the reaction of your audiences, to see when they were confused or to see when they looked disinterested. Yet another reason to visit in person.

The environmental impact of Solutions Consultants before Covid

However, traveling to visit prospects and customers comes at a cost. In the years running up to the pandemic, I was traveling more than ever to meet my clients. In fact, in 2019 alone, I did 24 international trips - almost once every two weeks. Many of these were single-day trips just for a two-hour product demonstration.

It made me wonder why I even bothered considering the environmental impact of the products or services I used when these savings would pale into insignificance compared to the impact of my international business flights.

That's why I decided to calculate the impact of my international travel as a Solutions Consultant compared to the average person.


Using this nifty calculator from the Guardian, I was able to calculate my carbon footprint from my 24 trips. Three were long-haul journeys to the States and the remainder were within Europe.

However, this carbon footprint doesn't take into consideration everything else I do in my life such as what I eat, how I get around and how I heat my home. Assuming I am fairly average in these respects, I used the UK average figure of 5.3 tons of CO2.

This gave me a staggering 12.9 tons of emissions each year compared with the 5.3 tons for the average Briton. That's almost 2.5 times the national average.

It only takes 10 return flights to make the top 1% of travellers in the UK which means I, and many other Solutions Consultants, will be firmly within that category.

How will business travel change after the pandemic?

In March 2020, all travel stopped. Airports were shut, all business travel was suspended and almost every company closed its offices.

However, software Sales and Solutions Consulting continued. We continued to meet with clients remotely, we continued to build relationships and we continued to win deals. But our carbon footprint from business travel fell almost to nil.

So what changed? Firstly, people became more familiar with video conferencing. As a result, when I call a client today, they have their webcam on. I can more effectively read their body language and make a better connection to ultimately become a trusted advisor.

Secondly, video conferencing tools have become more robust. I have had far fewer issues with technology over the last year. And yes, I'm sure that is partly because there is less user-error too because everyone is using it. Furthermore, the rise of Demo Video Automation tools further facilitated this process.

These factors have led to a change in perceptions from business travelers. According to Oliver Wyman's 2020 Traveller Sentiment Survey, only 19% of business travelers believe they cannot effectively develop new relationships remotely. This figure falls to just 11% when it comes to managing existing relationships.

Credit: / Oliver Wyman 2020 Traveller Sentiment Survey

These change in perceptions may lead to a reduction of business travel after Covid, resulting in a significant reduction in the environmental impact of Solutions Consultants.

If the reduction in carbon emissions isn't enough of a benefit for businesses, there are other benefits too. By working remotely, Solutions Consultants can fit several demos or meetings into a day rather than being out of the office for 13 hours in a day just to attend a one or two hour meeting with a client. This will lead to a lower cost of sales for vendors with a greater geographical reach. By performing remote demonstrations, we will have the opportunity to pool resources across geographies for better consistency, enablement and load balancing.

All of these potential changes could spell a greater work-life balance for Solutions Consultants, especially for those with young children.


Of course, there will always be a need for (at least some) face-to-face meetings with clients. When it comes to making the 1% difference to winning a deal, there will be situations where being on-site might be essential.

But with Solutions Consultants having up to 2.5x the carbon footprint of the average individual, the cost of sales is no longer just a monetary cost. With quoted businesses now having to report on their greenhouse gas emissions, this will likely become an agenda item for organisations.

Covid has taught us that we can do business entirely remotely and we can still build relationships with clients. I believe that the pandemic has been the catalyst to changing these perceptions and advancements in technology which will ultimately reduce the need for international travel and will reduce the carbon footprint of Solutions Consultants in the coming years.

Thomas Edwards is an experienced Solutions Consultant for Financial SaaS Solutions. He is also the Editor at The Modern SC - a website focusing on modern methods of Solutions Consulting and enablement. In his free time, he enjoys playing music, holding Grade 8 certification in three instruments. He is also an avid fan of Formula 1.

Connect with Thomas on LinkedIn.

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