Leisha John, Ernst & Young Americas Director of Environmental Sustainability, featured in Environmental Leader's Insider Knowledge Report

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Leisha John, Ernst & Young Americas Director of Environmental Sustainability, featured in Environmental Leader's Insider Knowledge Report

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Leisha John, Ernst & Young's Dir. of Enviro Sustainability, featured in Environmental Ldr's Insider Knowledge Report http://3bl.me/txnxhw
Wednesday, March 7, 2012 - 2:00pm

When I assumed the position of Americas Director of Environmental Sustainability in 2008, one of our goals was to contribute to a culture of sustainability at Ernst & Young. My counterpart in the United Kingdom calls it creating a culture of “green thinkers and doers.”  Of course we want our people to think about environmental sustainability in our own offices, but we also want them to be attuned to sustainability as a business issue that will have a significant impact on their clients’ businesses for decades to come.

As part of this strategy, in 2009, we sent our first team of Ernst & Young volunteers to Costa Rica to participate in an Earthwatch expedition and provide skills-based volunteering support to the Coop Tarrazu, the local cooperative of coffee growers. Since it was our pilot year, we invited participation from the Climate Change and Sustainability Services team and our EcoCare (local office green teams) network.

Except for the team leader, we required applicants to be below the manager rank, as we were especially focused on engaging our early career professionals. Frankly, we were pleasantly surprised when a dozen people said they would brave the elements (lots of insects and some pretty challenging terrain) and take part in the expedition – and we were thrilled when they returned and voiced strong support for expanding the program.

Fast forward to 2011, the Ernst & Young-Earthwatch Global Ambassadors Expeditions are now in their third year. This past spring, we had more than 160 applicants for 18 slots, making it harder to get into Earthwatch than it is to get accepted to Harvard!

And we expanded to Brazil which gave our people the opportunity to address the environmental issues of this dynamic emerging market. Our Americas program also served as the template for a recent pilot in India that involved Ernst & Young employees from across Europe, India, Africa and the Middle East.

I’m proud of what our volunteers accomplished through their Earthwatch expeditions. They gained hands-on experience in environmental field research and helped their hosts address complex business issues like pricing, forecasting and reporting. They worked as part of a global team (we had representatives from the U.S., Canada, Israel, South America and Mexico) which helped them expand their Ernst & Young network while enhancing their cultural understanding and developing a more global mindset. And they gained hands-on experience working with senior business leaders, which helped them build confidence as communicators and business advisors.

But I’m even prouder of the impact they have made since returning from Costa Rica and Brazil; they have brought a heightened awareness of sustainability to our clients and to our own operations. Returning Earthwatch volunteers who are on our Climate Change and Sustainability Services team have assisted clients in developing their environmental sustainability strategies and putting the structures in place to act on them. They have contributed to carbon footprinting projects and are involved in CSR reporting. They have published articles on topics such as Internal Revenue Code (IRC) 179D (Deduction for Energy Efficient Buildings) and contributed to white papers on a range of sustainability issues. And they have supported efforts to gain LEED certification for some of Ernst & Young’s own offices and re-energized EcoCare efforts in their local offices. In short, they have stepped up as leaders who understand the integral role that sustainability plays in our future. I can’t wait to see what the Ernst & Young Earthwatch class of 2012 brings to the table.

Read the original article in Environmental Leader's 2012 Insider Knowledge Report

Keywords: Environment & Climate Change | Earthwatch | environmental sustainability