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Past, present and future of the environmental service industry


A new market for verification and inventorying of GHG emission compliance and baseline reports has developed in Alberta and British Columbia over the last 10 years. Legislation requires that lead verifiers be either a registered professional engineer or registered chartered accountant. Demand may increase if legislation lowers the facility emission threshold for mandatory reporting, or if other provinces introduce GHG emission control legislation.

However, the market may also evaporate should any province transition into a flat type carbon tax on energy purchases. A rapidly growing engineering service demand will occur should the Federal government introduce a direct carbon tax or some indirect equivalent, which sets a clear future benchmark for energy users/wasters. Engineers with specialized skills in energy efficiency gains such as waste heat use, building insulation or renewable energy, will be in great demand.

A small market for the development and annual internal corporate reporting of sustainability has developed during the past 20 years. It has been created by large corporations and public institutions that feel compelled to report to their shareholders about their environmental and sustainable resource use performance. This market may grow, with new legislative requirements for facilities or commercial operations that are not currently required to report anything annually under a permit, or the Canadian National Pollutant Release Inventory (NPRI) requirements.

Required skills and business strategies

Engineers and other scientists (and their employers) that wish to succeed in the environmental service market have to consider the following educational requirements and human qualities:

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  • Strong project management skills such as efficiently using Microsoft Project, or equivalent, software to manage project task schedule and budget revisions.
  • Strong applied science skills in fluid dynamics, chemistry, biology, earth sciences and statistics, including specialty software for predictive modelling of air, surface water and groundwater quality. Database software skills also matter when it comes to analyzing collected environmental baseline field data. Geomatic software skills are useful, although this task is usually delegated to a project team specialist.
  • A personal engineering skill to “level down” intricate engineering project details to the level of the simple project facts required by a variety of environmental scientists.
  • A personal knack for business development. Project work will not come in continuously unless one makes it a habit to meet with existing and potential clients. In today’s Internet and electronic newsletter world, bid lists are a relic of the past. You have to seek out prospective clients and convince them that your company is qualified to service the specific client needs.


The environmental service industry has grown and matured tremendously over the past 40 years. It is no longer a service that is exclusively offered by consulting engineering companies. Numerous other specialist service companies have entered and secured a good portion of the market. The market will grow in the future depending on new legislative requirements and ongoing steady economic activity.

Engineers, with the right skills, will always be required in this service sector because of their project management and applied science skills.

Kurt Hansen, M.Sc., P. Eng., is an environmental consultant assisting industry, government and institutional clients across Canada and overseas. This article appeared in ES&E’s November/December 2014 issue.

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