Ernst & Young opts for electric cars
Brussels, 5 November 2010 – Today Ernst & Young will put into use a first series of electric cars: a double premiere. Ernst & Young is not only the first of the ‘Big 4’ to include electric cars in its vehicle fleet, but Belgium is also the first country in which Ernst & Young – with offices throughout the world – is introducing these vehicles. The choice for electric cars is more than a further step in the systematic greening of the vehicle fleet. It is chiefly also a means to stimulate changes in behavior among employees via a new mobility mindset or a greener way of thinking about mobility. With the introduction of electric cars, Ernst & Young intends to play a pioneering role in this trend, as well as to break down stereotypes that exist around cars; In addition to an individual status symbol, Ernst & Young believes that cars can also be a company status symbol, with attention for people and environment. The goal is to stimulate the change to a greener and sustainable mindset among people both inside and outside the company, as well as among all other concerned parties, including calling upon the government to create the right environment for green innovation to optimally thrive.
In the presence of Flemish Minister Ingrid Lieten and Minister of State Steve Stevaert, Ernst & Young put a first series of four electric cars in use today. This number will systematically increase in the coming years. “With a fleet of over 1,000 vehicles, we are among the top 20 in Belgium,” says Harry Everaerts, Partner and CSR Manager at Ernst & Young. “We believe that this brings with it a responsibility to help set a good example. We have taken numerous measures in the past years to "green" our vehicle fleet. Already today, the CO2 emissions of our fleet are 20% lower than the Belgian average. Hence, the choice to switch a part of our vehicle fleet from traditional fuel to electricity was a logical next step for us, one in which we especially wished to give our employees the opportunity to choose the most appropriate and most sustainable means of transport for each form of travel, the so-called ‘new mobility mindset’.
The choice was also partly inspired by Ernst & Young research that shows that a growing share of the public is asking for hybrid vehicles or fully electric vehicles. The market is there, but it seems there is still some resistance to the idea, and companies often assume a wait-and-see attitude. Ernst & Young, however, has decided to break this vicious circle and resolutely take the road to ‘greenovation’, green innovation. Ernst & Young intends to extend this pursuit of green innovation throughout the entire organization in order to systematically arrive at a new and sustainable business model that is motivating and inspiring for its employees as well as its clients.
Green innovation leads to a new business model
“Our sector has always been known for its distinctly financial business model,” says Jan De Luyck, Partner at Ernst & Young. “We are aware, however, that the transition to a new, socially driven, transparent and sustainable business model has become inevitable. Our clients after all will also increasingly be confronted with the challenge of working and producing more sustainably. For this, they will need to adapt their business models and processes, and they expect – rightly – that we will be able to advise them in this”.
Green innovation contributes to new mindset among employees
Much attention of course also goes to awareness raising among Ernst & Young employees and the development of a sustainable work environment. Present and future employees are attaching ever more importance to the ability to grow with a company whose vision extends further than mere product and profit. By consciously and systematically meeting this demand, Ernst & Young intends to attract and retain talented and committed employees, which is extremely important in a sector where the ‘war on talent’ rages unabated.
Ernst & Young is taking numerous initiatives to support and motivate employees in the pursuit of a healthy and environmentally aware lifestyle with a social focus. To this end, major attention of course is being paid to mobility behavior. Given the nature of the work, which requires many trips to customers, most employees are required to use a car. Ernst & Young has been taking initiatives for a number of years to green its vehicle fleet.
But there is more: courses in eco-driving, regular checking of tire pressures and the possibility to easily alternate between train and car in function of travel needs have already decreased fuel consumption by 10%. The goal of these existing and new initiatives is to arrive at a new mobility mindset among employees. Ernst & Young intends with this to achieve a further 20% decrease in CO2 emissions by 2015.
“We are working on a new mobility mindset”, says Ghislain Vanfraechem, Facilities Manager at Ernst & Young. “We wish to give our employees the opportunity to choose the most appropriate and sustainable means of transport for each travel need. Consequently, we make available a mix of traditional vehicles, electric cars, public transport and combinations of these. The car is no longer by definition the only option”.
Employees take energy home with them
And in the meantime, Ernst & Young is thinking still further ahead. In the future, not only will the vehicles themselves become greener and generate less emissions. Partly inspired by discussions with Steve Stevaert, Ernst & Young sees major opportunities in the development of smart grid technology to improve the equilibrium between the consumption, distribution and production of energy. “‘Smart electricity distribution’ will allow better management of large volumes of energy from fluctuating sources such as solar energy,” says Harry Everaerts. “If we are able to take advantage of this, over time we can make it possible for our employees to take energy home with them and continue to use it there”.
It is clear that green innovation will be the motor for the future-oriented, sustainable development of the entire economy. Companies such as Ernst & Young are ready to play a pioneering role in this transition. The government, however, also has the responsibility to contribute to a climate that encourages companies to invest in green innovation. “The introduction of electric cars is a perfect test case. On paper, Belgium – with its extended road infrastructure and short distances between economic centers – is perfectly suited for the use of electric cars. If companies, infrastructure providers, energy producers and government institutions work together, Belgium can also play an exemplary role in practice, and in the process attract innovative know-how” concludes Jan De Luyck. “In any case, Ernst & Young will continue to further travel the road to greater sustainability in the coming years. Green innovation will be the motor for an ongoing change process from which clients, employees, the environment and society in general will benefit”, concludes Harry Everaerts.
Flemish Minister for Innovation Ingrid Lieten: “The electric car is coming. Almost all auto manufacturers are working on electric models. The electric car is in fact a great benefit to us all. Fuel economy is better, no particulate matter and CO2 are emitted, and we become much less dependent on ever more expensive oil. For this reason, I am investing approximately 30 million euro in support of the introduction of electric cars, I am working on a ‘Flemish Action Plan for Electric Vehicles’, and just before the All Saints Day holidays, I proposed scrapping motor vehicle taxes for electric vehicles. I will also be taking other initiatives in the coming weeks and months. Today I am especially pleased that a company with one of the largest vehicle fleets in the country would also come out in support of the electric car. You won't know until you try it: this saying also applies to electric vehicles. By opting for electric company cars, Ernst & Young is contributing to awareness raising around and acceptance of electric cars. I hope that soon many more companies will take the step that Ernst & Young today is taking.”