Business and the environment

Stuart Wilkinson, Office Managing Partner at EY in the East of England comments on the importance of businesses having a positive impact on the environment in which they operate.  

The global pandemic has taught the business community a lot, not just about how businesses operate, how we maintain close relationships with clients virtually, but also the continued importance of businesses having a positive impact on the environment they operate in. 

Just over 12 months ago, EY confirmed its global commitment to become carbon neutral by the end of 2020. Fast forward a year, and despite the challenges of a global pandemic and resulting impact on the financial worldwide economy, the business not only met its objective, it set a new one; to be carbon negative by the end of 2021.  

In December 2020, EY also announced a 10-year zero carbon Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) in the UK, contributing to a new solar power station project, based in Norfolk. 

Over the term of the PPA, the renewable energy delivered by the utility scale solar power station will mean that nearly 100 per cent of all electricity the firm purchases direct from energy providers will be counted as zero-carbon solar power. 

The deal not only makes the new solar power station commercially viable but has the potential to create jobs during construction and on a more permanent basis as the station is up and running. 

As a business we have been using renewable energy for a number of years, including purchasing electricity via renewable tariffs since 2009 and switching to 100% certified biogas in 2019. 

The PPA means we will be making an even bigger impact, ensuring that the majority of the energy EY uses in the UK continues to be zero carbon, and generating a significant surplus of green energy that will be fed back into the grid to support EY’s overall global net-zero objectives.

Of the total 21.3 Giga Watt hours (GWh) of energy generated by the facility, EY will use 13GWh, with the remaining 40 per cent of energy generated being sold to market. Construction of the solar power station is expected to take approximately eight months and it will be fully operational by October 2021.  

To ensure that biodiversity of the area is protected and enhanced, the project will also include the planting of hedgerows and trees, grassland and wildflower meadows; and the erection of bird and bat houses. 

The PPA is just one of the ways EY is seeking to minimise its environmental impact and meet its new global ambitions to be carbon negative at the end of this year by both reducing and offsetting carbon emissions. 

EY’s global ambitions to become carbon negative, by reducing total emissions by 40 per cent – consistent with a science-based target – and achieve net zero in 2025 – will be shaped by seven key components:- 

  • Reducing business travel emissions by 35 per cent by FY25 against a FY19 baseline
  • Reducing overall office electricity usage and procuring 100 per cent renewable energy for remaining EY needs, earning membership to the RE100 – a group of influential organisations committed to renewable power – by FY25
  • Structuring electricity supply contracts, though 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 then EY emits, every year
  • Investing in services and solutions that help EY clients profitably decarbonise their businesses and provide solutions to other sustainability challenges and opportunities
  • Requiring 75 per cent of EY suppliers, by spend, to set science-based targets by no later than FY25

In the UK, the global pandemic has acted as a facilitator for technological investment and transformation for businesses. It’s expected that many of these changes will help support EY to achieve its sustainability ambitions, by implementing new ways of working and new technologies for our own employees and our clients.  

Sustainability is one of the most significant and generation defining issues that the world faces today, and we are proud to be playing our part to help tackle these challenges.

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