Accounting major Ernst & Young has announced an ambitious plan to be carbon negative this year, reduce its total emissions by 40%, and achieve “net zero” in 2025. The firm says the plan underscores its commitment to the environment and to driving long-term, sustainable growth. It has seven key components:
- Reducing business travel emissions by 35% by financial year 2025 against a FY2019 baseline.
- Reducing overall office electricity usage and procuring 100% renewable energy for remaining EY needs, earning membership to the RE100, a group of influential organizations committed to renewable power, by FY2025.
- Structuring electricity supply contracts, through virtual power purchase agreements (PPAs), to introduce more electricity than EY consumes into national grids.
- Providing EY teams with tools that enable them to calculate, then work to reduce, the amount of carbon emitted when carrying out EY client work.
- Using nature-based solutions and carbon-reduction technologies to remove from the atmosphere or offset more carbon than EY emits, every year.
- Investing in services and solutions that help EY clients profitably decarbonize their businesses and provide solutions to other sustainability challenges and opportunities.
- Requiring 75% of EY suppliers, by spend, to set science-based targets by no later than FY25.
Carmine Di Sibio, EY global chairman and chief executive officer, says: “We believe that combatting climate change is a vital element of building a better working world. While this challenge is unique and different for each organization, we are inspired by those that are setting ambitious targets despite the difficulties they face. EY people are passionate about tackling big challenges and with the power of 300,000 of them, we will not only transform EY to become a leader in sustainability, but also help EY clients do the same.”
While undertaking to become more sustainable, EY says its teams are also developing a new set of global sustainability solutions for its clients aimed at helping them on their own sustainability journeys. The solutions seek to help clients capture the business opportunities from sustainability and decarbonization, while also protecting and creating value.
EY says it is continuing to invest in technology and transform its business, which was accelerated by the Covid-19 pandemic. It is expected that many of the changes that have been implemented as a result of the health crisis will help the firm achieve its sustainability ambitions by helping its teams learn and implement new ways of working.
For example, during the pandemic EY teams worked with both clients and organizations to help implement workplace changes, including flexible working and increased use of remote working technologies, which are expected to contribute to reductions in business travel.
The firm says it has taken other actions to reduce the organization’s environmental impact and drive sustainable growth. These include recent initiatives in collaboration with HRH The Prince of Wales’s Sustainable Markets Initiative, and joining the “Terra Carta” – a charter that puts sustainability at the heart of the private sector.
It is also playing a leading role in the World Economic Forum’s International Business Council, which has developed a core set of common metrics and disclosures on non-financial factors for investors and other stakeholders.
In Greater China, the EY Financial Services Climate Change and Sustainability Services (CCaSS) team is contributing its efforts in green finance and ESG (environmental, social and governance). These include providing professional advice and participating in the formulation of a series of green finance policies and guidelines for the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), the China Securities Regulatory Commission’s (CSRC) China Securities Industry Association Green Securities Committee, Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing Limited (HKEX), and the Securities and Futures Commission (SFC).
According to an EY statement, “carbon neutral” refers to removing and offsetting emissions equivalent to its carbon footprint each year. “Carbon negative” means reducing its emissions in line with the target of limiting global warming to 1.5°C to avoid the catastrophic impacts of climate change, while “net zero” is the point at which an organization has achieved its 1.5˚C target and removed its residual emissions from the atmosphere.