Ernst & Young offers example of sustainable services sensibility

Firm offers another illustration that while sustainability strategy begins at the top, it will take a dedicated effort and commitment at the field level to achieve progress.
Written by Heather Clancy, Contributor

Many companies report carbon intensity as a function of revenue, the theory being that even as your sales grow, you should be continuing to squeeze down your greenhouse gas emissions through sustainable business practices. Professional services company Ernst & Young keeps close tabs on its carbon footprint intensity per person.

That makes a lot of sense, if you think about it, because the company's most tangible (or is that intangible?) asset is the army of consultants, accountants and auditors that march around helping other companies. Not surprising, then, is the revelation that Scope 3 greenhouse gas emissions related to business travel account for 62 percent of the company's overall carbon footprint. Ernst & Young pegs that total footprint at 187,610 metric tons of carbon emissions, which is a 15 percent reduction over its 2009 fiscal year. Carbon intensity per person was reduced, but not by quite that much. In the Americas, the reduction was about 12 percent per person for the group's 41,487 employees.

If you think about it, professional services companies have a different sort of challenge when it comes to managing energy efficiency and encouraging green practices.That's because if a company is doing well, many of its employees won't actually be in any sort of headquarters or branch office most of the time. They should be off at clients, which might have totally different environmental goals, or they work in home offices, where it could be relatively easy to overlook eco-sensibilities. So, the fact that Ernst & Young still has managed a reduction is a good thing.

Ernst & Young attributes this to broad commitment to sustainability programs. Here's the observation from Leisha John, Americas director of environmental sustainability:

"While our sustainability efforts began with a commitment from Ernst & Young leadership, the dedication of our internal environmental network of employee has made the project a success. The network unites executives in our real estate, facilities management, IT and procurement groups with our 1,000 plus 'EcoCare' employee volunteers who have been champions for our green practices in their home offices for nearly a decade."

There are some specific accomplishments and initiatives worth noting:

  • As mentioned before, business travel is a big chunk of Ernst & Young's overall emissions (62 percent), however the company has managed to reduce its air travel by approximately 75 million miles, or about 18 percent.
  • Office energy consumption has been cut by 22 million kilowatt hours; that includes a massive server consolidation project that has seen 1,453 servers consolidated down onto 215.
  • In its RFPs, Ernst & Young requires all U.S. suppliers to answer questions about their green initiatives or environmental impact.
  • The firm has made a big dent in paper consumption: It uses 54 percent fewer disposable cups and 107 million fewer sheets of paper.
  • Ernst & Young has a goal to ensure that by 2012, 30 percent of its U.S. office space has been certified under the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program. That will include a retrofit for more than 15,000 light fixtures in the company's New York headquarters office.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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