Accounting for the welfare of the environment before embarking on a project or transaction is essential, both legally and ethically. It’s important to have experts like environmental consultants around, so they can provide their valuable advice. 

Environmental consulting firms are usually sought out for these services. They equip organisations and businesses with the right kind of direction, allowing them to take the best course of action. If you’ve been thinking of starting your own environmental consulting business and you happened to stumble upon this article, then you may be on the right path!  

You could be a seasoned environmental expert looking for the next step in your career or a business owner wanting to provide a valuable service to the community. Either way, it’s important to understand the legal considerations of starting a business as an environmental consultant. We’ve got you covered – let’s get into it in more detail below. 

What Is An Environmental Consultant?

Let’s start with the fundamentals. What exactly is an environmental consultant and what do they do? Essentially, an environmental consultant offers their expertise when it comes to managing the environment. 

Let’s say, you’re thinking of building your dream home in an oceanside location. An environmental consultant can provide advice regarding how to best construct your home in a way that’s sustainable and minimises the risks of living in a coastal area.  

Environmental consultants aren’t bogged down to a singular description of their role. In fact, there are multiple different types of environmental consultants that provide different types of services. Some might specialise in water, waste, geology or pollution. They can work in areas related to construction, regulatory compliance, cleanup, emergency response planning and more. If you’re an environmental consultant, it’s wise to map out your niche area and think about exactly what services you will offer.  

How Do You Get Into Environmental Consulting?

Environmental consultants, like most consultants, are well qualified and experienced in their area of practice. They usually obtain a degree or higher in their field, then gain a considerable amount of experience in the workforce. Eventually, they are able to attain the kind of expertise that is required of a consultant.  

If you’re thinking of starting an environmental consulting business as a consultant, then you’ll need to make sure you’ve obtained the relevant qualifications and experiences first. If you’re a business owner who is thinking of running things while hiring environmental consultants to work for your consultancy firm, then you’ll need to make sure all of your staff are well qualified. 

How To Start An Environmental Consultant Business 

Starting your environmental consultant business means there’s a number of factors you’ll need to think about. When starting any kind of business, there are three main legal considerations you will need to take care of. They are: 

  • Business registration 
  • Legal documents 
  • Regulatory compliance 

We’ll explore each of these in more detail later. It’s a wise idea to put a business plan together as you begin the research process of starting your environmental consulting business. 

A business plan doesn’t need to be anything fancy. You can make it just for your own eyes. However, it does help to have everything in one place. That way you’ll find it much easier to stay on track. 

Registering My Environmental Consultant Business: Sole Trader, Partnership Or Company? 

After you’ve completed your due diligence and are confident to move forward with your plans, you will need to register your environmental consultant business. The process for registering your business will depend on the type of legal structure you pick. 

In Australia, the most commonly registered business structures are a sole trader, partnership and company. Each of these are different with their own advantages and disadvantages. Understanding them is the best way to decide on what’s right for your business. 

Sole Trader

A sole trader business is exactly what the name implies. When you register as a sole trader, you will be the sole person responsible for the business. This means that there is no legal separation between you and the business, as it’s attached to your personal identity. So, if something goes wrong within the business, then you will be personally liable for it. 

You might be thinking, why would anyone want that? Well, the upside to starting business as a sole trader is that the registration process is pretty simple and convenient. To register your environmental consulting business as a sole trader, you just need to go online to the Australian Business Register and apply for an ABN. Once that’s done and approved, you can opt to register a Business Name – then you’re all set up as a sole trader. 

The ease and convenience of a sole trader legal structure can be enticing, however it should be thoughtfully weighed against the risk of having very limited legal protection. 

Partnership 

Partnerships have similar risks and advantages to a sole trader structure. It’s relatively quick and easy to set up. However, there is very little legal protection. To get started in a partnership, all partners will need to get their individual ABN’s. If the environmental consulting business will run under a name that is not the personal names of the partners, then you will also need to register a Business Name

In partnership arrangements, we recommend taking the additional step of having the right legal documentation that governs the terms of partnership, such as a Partnership Agreement. This way, you’ll be in a better position to protect all the partners and the business.  

Company 

If your environmental consulting business is a high priority and you have long-term growth plans for it, then a company structure is the way to go. Unlike a sole trader and a partnership, a company is legally separate from you. Once you set up a company, it becomes a legal entity on its own. Therefore, the company can do things like earn profits, incur debts and even own property. As a result, your own personal liability will be limited, offering you a lot more legal protection. 

Often, the process of setting up a company can be seen as one of its disadvantages. Granted, setting up a company is a bit more complex and time consuming than starting a sole trader or partnership business. However, with the right legal help this process doesn’t need to be so daunting. When you set up a company, you need to sort out things like shareholders, directors and company governance. After that, you will need to register it with ASIC. Once a company is registered it also has some ongoing obligations, such as annual reporting and fees. Getting a legal expert to help out with this process makes it much simpler, get in touch with ours today. 

You can read more about business legal structures here

What Legal Documents Will I Need For My Environmental Consulting Business? 

When your business is officially registered, you’ll need to think about securing your business through the right legal agreements. Contracts and other legal documents offer further legal protection and can help with the natural risks that come with running a business. A few legal documents you may want to look into getting include: 

  • Consultancy Agreement – this is the primary agreement you’ll have between your clients. It addresses important matters like scope of work, payment and obligations of each party.  
  • Disclaimer – A disclaimer is often important when it comes to managing expectations and ensuring your consultancy firm can’t be blamed for things out of its control. 
  • Website Terms and Conditions – If you have a website, it’s important to establish some ground rules in order to protect your liability and maintain certain controls. 
  • Privacy Policy – Any business’s website that collects information from its users (or has an annual turnover of more than $3 million) needs to have a privacy policy in place. 
  • Employment Agreement – When your environmental consulting business hires staff, it’s important to start the relationship with a well drafted agreement so both employer and employees are on the same page. 

Legal Regulations You Need To Think About When Starting An Environmental Consulting Business 

When you’re thinking about the legal framework for starting a consulting business, it’s not just about protecting your business with the right legal instruments. It’s also imperative to ensure you’re running a legally compliant environmental consulting business. 

In order to do this, you will need to be aware of all the revelations that impact your business and ensure you’re acting in accordance with them. For instance, the Australian Consumer Law (ACL) will be one of your main areas of legal compliance as a business. The ACL determines what rights consumers have and the responsibility of business in ensuring these rights are being upheld. For example, engaging in any kind of false advertising or fraudulent behaviour can lead to a lot of trouble for your business. As such, you’ll need to be aware of the laws that impact your business and take reasonable measures to make sure that your business practices don’t infringe them. 

Data and Privacy is another area you’ll need to look out for. As an environmental consulting business, you will need to protect the information of your clients. It’s understandable that incidents occur but if you have taken reasonable measures to protect that information from potential threats, then you’re more likely to be in the clear. 

Talking to a Regulatory Compliance expert can help you gain a better understanding of what laws will apply to your business and the best way to approach them. 

Next Steps 

Starting an environmental consulting business can be a fantastic next step in your career. However, it’s important to take care of the legal considerations to provide your business with much needed protection in the market. To summarise what we’ve discussed: 

  • Environmental consultants provide expertise in managing environmental aspects, offering advice in various areas
  • Qualifications and experience are essential for both consultants and business owners in the field
  • Starting an environmental consulting business involves legal considerations like registration, documents and regulatory compliance
  • Business structure options include sole trader, partnership, and company, each with its advantages and disadvantages
  • Legal documents such as Consultancy Agreements and Privacy Policies are vital for business protection
  • Legal compliance, including Australian Consumer Law and Data Privacy, is crucial; consulting with experts is recommended

If you would like a consultation on starting an environmental consulting business, you can reach us at 1800 730 617 or team@sprintlaw.com.au for a free, no-obligations chat.

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