Living a Sustainability Strategy Through Skills-Based Volunteering: Earthwatch-Ernst &Young Global Ambassadors Program (Americas)

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Living a Sustainability Strategy Through Skills-Based Volunteering: Earthwatch-Ernst &Young Global Ambassadors Program (Americas)

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Ernst & Young's Earthwatch Global Ambassador Program supports E&Y’s overall corporate sustainability goals:


This guest blog post submitted by Beth Rosemond, Assistant Director of Corporate Responsibility, Ernst & Young LLP, builds on remarks given during a Billion + Change campaign webinar held on March 28 discussing best practice skills-based volunteer programs improving the environment. This post explores the Earthwatch - Ernst & Young Global Ambassador Program and how it supports E&Y’s overall corporate sustainability goals.

Friday, April 20, 2012 - 7:00pm

As corporate America gets smarter and more strategic about being socially, environmentally and economically sustainable, the next question on the horizon is: how can companies use their corporate volunteer programs to support their overall sustainability objectives? More specifically, how can they use skills-based volunteering to tap into their employees’ talents and experience to address community needs in highly impactful ways?

I spoke about what Ernst & Young is doing to embrace skills-based volunteering to support our environmental sustainability strategy on A Billion + Change’s webinar on March 28. We launched our Earthwatch-Ernst & Young Global Ambassador Program within the Americas in 2009, and each year we have increased participation both in theAmericas and on a global scale, too.

This year, we are sending 30 high-performers at the staff or senior level from across ourAmericas region to Brazil and Costa Rica to participate in tailored one-week Earthwatch expeditions. While abroad, our teams conduct field research and complete skills-based projects helping local entrepreneurs adopt environmentally and economically sustainable business practices.  Given the large pool of qualified candidates and range of skills and backgrounds, this year’s selection process was especially competitive.

This program is a valuable leadership and talent development experience for our best and brightest. Our 2012 Earthwatch Ambassadors will grow their Ernst &Young network, broaden their global mindset and develop personally and professionally by using their skills in a different culture. The ambassadors typically return with a renewed commitment to environmental sustainability and community engagement and bring these new and enhanced qualities back to their teams and clients.

Here’s an example that will give you a sense of the depth of the Earthwatch experience: in 2011, the team in Brazil worked with researchers to measure the diameter of trees, weigh stingless beehives and identify leaf samples. The group also offered suggestions on cash flow, organizational structure and sales and marketing to a local honey farm in an effort to help them grow their business. 

Dominick Brook, who works in Ernst & Young’s Climate Change and Sustainability Services and returned to Costa Rica for a second year to lead an expedition in 2010, shared this perspective on the value of participating in the program:

 “I help my clients figure out sustainability strategies. By volunteering for Earthwatch, I was able to live a sustainability strategy.”

How the program affects employees like Dominick is an increasingly important issue as we seek to continually engage our people. According to a recent global survey that Ernst & Young conducted with GreenBiz Group titled “Six Growing Trends in Corporate Sustainability,” employees are emerging as a key stakeholder group for sustainability programs. We have approximately 1,000 grassroots “EcoCare” volunteers that organize eco-related efforts in their local offices and communities.  This group is celebrating its 10-year anniversary this year. Our annual EY Connect Days also encourage our people to volunteer in their local communities during the work day, and we are currently working with Earthwatch on creating local volunteering opportunities across the U.S.

We have taken the A Billion + Change pledge to capitalize on our employees’ skills to advance highly  impactful social change at home and around the word. We encourage others to expand their volunteer programs to include skills-based service, and are always happy to share lessons learned over the years.

Keywords: Environment & Climate Change | Earthwatch Ambassador program | Ernst & Young | Ethical Production & Consumption | Volunteerism & Community Engagement | billion + change