10 minute read 4 May 2020

How to start ripples that create waves of change

By Gillian Hinde

EY Global Corporate Responsibility Leader

Connector. Collaborator. Wannabe concert pianist. Passionate about personal empowerment and collective action to drive change at scale.

10 minute read 4 May 2020

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Discover 12 examples of how EY Ripples helped drive sustainable inclusive growth in 2019.

Dramatic shifts in how we live are placing unprecedented strain on our planet — with the effects of climate change disproportionately affecting some of the world’s most vulnerable people. It exacerbates inequalities between communities and economies, and has the potential to create generational inequalities, too. There’s a growing sense that the future is ours to change and that the change must start today.

As recognition of the role of business continues to grow, especially in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, so too do people’s expectations. At EY, we’ve long believed we have a responsibility to use our capabilities and influence to make a difference. It’s reflected in our purpose — building a better working world — and our ambition to create long-term value for our stakeholders. And it’s the principle behind EY Ripples, our global program dedicated to driving sustainable, inclusive growth around the world.

Through EY Ripples, EY people and networks are applying their skills, knowledge and experience to address some of the biggest social challenges of our time — with a threefold focus on supporting the next generation workforce, working with impact entrepreneurs and accelerating environmental sustainability.

Through EY Ripples, we have an ambitious goal to positively impact the lives of 250 million people by 2025 and a billion by 2030.

We have an ambitious goal to positively impact the lives of 250m people by 2025 and 1b by 2030. In this yearbook, you can read about how we’re working with some of the world’s most purposeful enterprises, on Sustainable Development Goal (SDG)-focused projects, to achieve this.

The examples that follow are just some of many projects and initiatives supported by EY people in 2019. We’re proud of the ripples that this work has started and look forward to seeing them join with others. Together, they will create the waves of change needed to sustain this planet and improve the lives of everyone on it.

Ripples yearbook travelling on a boat on the amazon peru

Helping protect biodiversity in the Peruvian Amazon


Helping protect biodiversity in the Peruvian Amazon

AmazonEco is dedicated to conserving the Peruvian Amazon. It supplies research vessels, biologists and local guides, so that students and volunteers can carry out environmental field research and support community-based conservation. EY helped strengthen AmazonEco’s marketing and financial management, leading to expansion of its expedition programs. Additionally, EY analysis has aided development of new business ventures to promote sustainable consumption, wildlife management, and carbon emissions reductions through use of electric vehicles and solar energy to power boats and buildings.

Australian Business and Community Network (ABCN)

Improving educational and career outcomes for underserved young Australians

As one of 40 members of ABCN, EY supports multiple programs to help underserved young Australians develop critical skills, employability and leadership. For example, the Focus program matches girls with female executive role models for small group mentoring sessions. GOALS, a one-to-one mentoring program, is designed to raise awareness of personal, educational and vocational choices, and encourage completion of high school and further education. And Future Thinkers, a program developed with seed funding and support from EY, builds creative problem-solving skills through design-thinking. Across these programs and more, EY people provided over 1,800 hours of mentoring to more than 800 students in 2019.

Bidhaa Sasa

Improving the lives and livelihoods of women in East Africa

With its “woman-to-woman” direct sales model and referral program, Bidhaa Sasa offers micro-credit to groups of rural women, without conditions or collateral. It’s also able to specialize in loans for sub-US$100 products — such as solar lights, clean cookstoves and farm tools — that have the potential to change lives, but are typically too small to be funded by conventional finance institutions. Aiming to reach more than 140,000 new families across Kenya and Uganda over the next two years, EY support to develop Bidhaa Sasa’s IT infrastructure will help it cope with this ambitious growth in a controlled and cost-effective way.


Making distributed solar energy durable, portable and scalable

Domestic solar power systems are a great method for rural electrification, but often lack the capacity to power larger loads such as refrigerators, water pumps and industrial equipment. BoxPower is changing that. Deployed in standard 20ft shipping containers, each of its units contains solar panels and battery banks that can power up to six homes or one small business. Sold systems are already offsetting 340 tons of carbon emissions per year, and providing more than 3,500 rural customers with clean, affordable and reliable energy. With EY help to develop a strategy for expanding into new markets, BoxPower aims to impact 100,000 lives by 2022 and 1m lives by 2025.

Ripples yearbook checked shirt man College map program

Supporting the dream of higher education in the US

College MAP (Mentoring for Access and Persistence)

Supporting the dream of higher education in the US

Now operating across 38 US cities, the EY College MAP program focuses on inspiring underserved students to attend college, and on providing the personal support and life skills coaching to help them complete their degrees and transition successfully into the working world. To date, 1,800 EY professionals have mentored more than 2,000 students, of whom 99% have graduated high school and 95% have enrolled in higher education. This compares with a peer group average 72% and 42% respectively — testament to the effectiveness of a group mentoring model that offers students a wider variety of mentor and peer perspectives, and encourages them to become their own supportive academic community.

JA Worldwide (Junior Achievement)

Preparing young people for employment and entrepreneurship

One of the world’s largest youth-focused NGOs, JA Worldwide serves more than 12m young people every year in over 100 countries, providing hands-on, experiential learning in work readiness, financial literacy and entrepreneurship. As long-standing supporters of JA Worldwide’s work, EY people mentor students, serve on global, regional and local boards, and have been involved in helping develop numerous innovations. Building on that relationship in 2019, EY signed a global agreement with JA Worldwide to pilot new mentoring programs in 14 countries in the coming year, anticipated to bring entrepreneurial education to more than 12,000 students.


Creating bags of change for refugees across the UK

For NEMI Teas, a truly good cup of tea involves far more than support for the Fairtrade movement. As well as supplying its premium teas in plastic-free packaging and 100% biodegradable teabags, NEMI Teas reinvests more than 50% of its profits back into the business to hire, train and upskill refugees in the UK, helping them gain work experience and get job ready. With EY support to develop its strategy, the business has tripled sales in the last 12 months, and is now targeting national and international expansion, including by establishing a franchise model of NEMI cafés across London, owned and run solely by refugees.


Helping develop Africa’s next generation of leaders

Underserved girls from across Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal and the Western Cape have talent, grit and determination in abundance. What they lack are opportunities to fulfill their potential. Through the award-winning NextGen program, EY people support girls in their senior years of high school with extra academic tutoring, work experience and leadership camps. Helping them develop vital skills, build self-esteem and raise their ambitions, alumnae have gone on to pursue degrees and careers in fields such as medicine, engineering, accounting, forensics and microbiology. The 2019 cohort achieved a 100% pass rate in their “matric” exams, with more than 95% receiving the highest “Bachelor’s Degree” pass level.

Ripples yearbook smart future group shot

Helping underserved young people develop employability skills in the UK

Smart Futures

Helping underserved young people develop employability skills in the UK

The EY Foundation’s Smart Futures program in the UK focuses on supporting underserved students aged 16–18, offering them the chance to develop employability skills while completing a paid two-week work experience placement. Participants also work toward a Chartered Management Institute (CMI) Level 2 adult qualification and receive 10 months’ further mentoring support from EY people to help plan their next steps — whether that’s further education, an apprenticeship or a job. Among the nearly 4,000 young people supported by the EY Foundation in 2019, 97% of Smart Futures students achieved a CMI qualification.

Student Mentoring Program

Helping prepare India’s youth for the future of work

By 2030, India is set to have the largest working-age population in the world, so it’s vital that the country’s young people are well-prepared for the fast-changing future of work. Through its Student Mentoring Program, which combines group and one-to-mentoring, the EY Foundation in India offers wide-ranging support including English language and soft skills training, as well as career advice and coaching. Around 400 EY people mentored more than 500 students in 2019, more than 95% of whom have graduated from secondary school and are now in higher education or employment.


Using solar-powered irrigation to transform smallholder livelihoods in Africa

Less than one-fifth of Kenya’s arable land is suitable for rainfed agriculture. With petrol, electric and manual water pumps often costly and inefficient, SunCulture is pioneering a new approach. Its RainMaker irrigation kits combine the energy efficiency of solar with highly efficient drip irrigation, and have been shown to help thousands of smallholder farmers increase their yields by 300% or more. EY supported creation of a “business in a box” style manual that will help SunCulture replicate and scale its model across new markets in East and West Africa.


Promoting equity of opportunity for women in the Middle East

Tarjama is a leading provider of tech-powered translation and content creation services, located in the heart of the Middle East. With a business model that emphasizes training, hiring and promoting exceptional, talented women, its workforce is 70% female and its translation training program has created quality freelance employment for 300 women. EY supported Tarjama in developing a business plan and detailed financial model that empowers it to expand into new markets; to enhance quality and speed of service; and, importantly, to continue setting new standards for female inclusion.

Broadening impact

As this yearbook (pdf) shows, EY Ripples initiatives — from capacity-building projects with impact entrepreneurs to future-focused mentoring programs for underserved young people — are already making a difference. But achieving the ambitious EY Ripples vision to positively impact one billion lives requires finding new ways to connect with more people. We continue to expand provision of a range of clinics and workshops, as well as work with others to generate insightful thought leadership with the potential to accelerate the development of entire sectors.

Business clinics for impact entrepreneurs

EY runs intensive one-day workshops that bring together groups of impact entrepreneurs to focus on common topics of interest and barriers to growth. These offer a combination of practical training, peer discussion, and individual and group mentoring. Building on pilots conducted in 2018, EY professionals ran eight business clinics across five countries in 2019, supporting more than 160 entrepreneurs with content on five key themes: building an impact enterprise, engaging customers, leading people, managing finances, and preparing for investment. Coupled with deepening relationships with various collaborators, we anticipate scaling these clinics significantly in the year ahead.

Workshops for the future of work

In 2019, EY piloted a new series of workshops for 10 to 18 year-olds in 12 countries around the world, covering topics that will shape their future and how they prepare for entering the world of work. From exploring the impact of new technologies to global sustainability challenges and our role as individuals in creating change, these interactive workshops are composed of nine modules developed by specialist professionals, and reviewed by former teachers for quality and effectiveness. Pilots in 20 additional countries are planned for 2020.

Thought leadership

Adding to previous reports on container-based sanitation, last-mile distribution and scaling entrepreneurial safe water enterprises, in 2019, EY joined forces with the Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture (SFSA) and the Toilet Board Coalition (TBC) to produce two more valuable studies. The first, focused on digital agriculture (pdf), examines the role digital technology is already playing in improving the livelihoods of smallholder farmers and critical success factors for realizing their full potential. The second draws lessons from leading sanitation entrepreneurs to illustrate pathways for achieving a transformational sanitation economy (pdf) — one that could unlock billions of dollars in economic value, while addressing one of the world’s most urgent sustainable development challenges.  

What’s next?

Our vision is bold. Our focus is clear. Now the real work begins. As proud as we are of what’s been achieved over the past year, we’re even more excited by the challenges and opportunities that lay ahead — working across the global EY organization, and with the entire ecosystem of clients and collaborators, to take these efforts to unprecedented scale. Above all, in 2020, that will mean doing three things.

1. Trialing new virtual platforms

To expand the reach of EY Ripples initiatives, EY will work with trusted technology providers to help enable thoughtful but convenient mentoring opportunities, linking youth with EY people across the globe. The aim is to scale beyond the limitations of one-to-one or one-to-few mentoring models, without sacrificing the sense of connection and community that comes with an in-person relationship. The EY Finance Navigator tool will also be made available to impact entrepreneurs globally at reduced rates, to strengthen their ability to assess and understand their businesses’ financials.

2. Broadening collaboration

EY will continue to broaden collaborations with clients and other organizations, both at a global and local level. Current areas of exploration include opportunities to work with financial services clients to advance financial literacy and digital inclusion.

3. Strengthening focus on environmental sustainability

In January, EY committed to becoming carbon neutral by the end of 2020 and announced creation of a new senior role, EY Global Vice Chair — Sustainability, reporting directly into EY Global Chairman and CEO, Carmine DiSibio. Both are important steps that move the global EY organization closer toward becoming truly sustainable, and establish the platform for collaboration with clients and other organizations that share a deep commitment to tackling the climate emergency.


Through EY Ripples, EY aims to positively impact 1b lives by 2030. The EY Ripples 2019 yearbook showcases some of the many ways we are working toward that goal by applying EY people’s skills, knowledge and experience where they can make the biggest difference.

About this article

By Gillian Hinde

EY Global Corporate Responsibility Leader

Connector. Collaborator. Wannabe concert pianist. Passionate about personal empowerment and collective action to drive change at scale.