Earthwatch in Brazil

(As originally appeared in Vancouversun.com, 22 June 2012)

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By Byron Chard, Staff Accountant, Assurance Services, EY

The countdown is on! I’ve had my shots, I’ve bought the bug repellent, and I’ve packed my rain boots. Where am I going? Brazil. Who am I? My name is Byron Chard and I’m a Staff Accountant in EY’s Assurance practice here in Vancouver.

Tomorrow I’m abandoning my office comforts and heading to Brazil as an Ambassador with the Earthwatch Institute. EY joined forces with Earthwatch to send ten employees from all over the world to team up, share knowledge and volunteer in the Guaraquecaba region of Brazil. Through an internal application process I was one of the lucky ten selected for the amazing opportunity to travel and volunteer on this corporate responsibility mission.

Earthwatch is one of the world’s leading environmental non-profit organizations. As part of my role, I’ll be working on two separate projects run by the organization. One of these projects will focus on sustaining the environment while the other is a skills-based project where I’ll have the chance to consult on sustainability initiatives for a growing small business.

Environmental project

Earthwatch has matched up our team of volunteers with a team of researchers to help understand and suggest ways to conserve one of the top five biodiversity hotspots in the world – and one of the most endangered biomes in Brazil: the Atlantic Forest. Economical activities in this area are regulated to reduce environmental impacts. The Guyra Farm, where I will be staying, was inactive for many years but the owners have recently restarted some activities again. To ensure a sustainable future, there is an urgent need to determine the most efficient allocation of funding for conserving biodiversity. Our team will help the researchers map out the biodiversity and various ecosystem services in the Atlantic Forest, and assess the tradeoffs in different allocations of funds to protect them. Each day is supposed to bring a new challenge and obstacle but I’m excited to get out of my normal work attire and get my hands dirty in the field. This is a rare opportunity, not offered by many companies, to be able to be involved in a corporate responsibility mission in a different part of the world.

Skills-based project

For the skills-based project, our team will be working with Cooperguara Ecotour, an ecotourism company. They are in need of an executive strategy to help grow and hire employees. They do not have any paid staff at the moment and are looking for a way to manage their cash flow and hire staff while continuing to operate in the marketplace. Our volunteer team of EY employees come from diverse backgrounds with diverse skills from five different countries around the world, including: Mexico, Brazil, Israel and the US. It’s our goal to deliver an innovative, well thought out plan to help this company grow and bring brand awareness to their customers, local travel agencies and tour operators.

This is what corporate responsibility is all about: creating a sustainable, thriving community, able to protect its environment and become prosperous by fostering innovation and generating new businesses. I’m looking forward to the challenge and unique opportunity ahead to make my mark in Brazil. I’ll finally be getting out of the office and not just reading about corporate responsibility, but experiencing it myself. And I’ll be able to tell you all about it when I make it back from the jungle next week. So stay tuned… the adventure is just about to begin!


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