Press release

10 Nov 2023 Dublin, IE

Derarca Dennis, partner and lead for Climate Change and Sustainability, EY Ireland, speaks to Business Post about supporting businesses to make sustainable, positive change

Business Post interview with Derarca Dennis, partner and lead for Climate Change and Sustainability, EY Ireland.

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EY Ireland

Multidisciplinary professional services organisation

EY Ireland, a leading global professional services organisation providing assurance, tax, audit, strategy and transactions and consulting services.

Many firms will need support and guidance in ensuring they deliver on environmental, social and governance (ESG) policies. That’s where EY can help.

The topic of climate change and the future of the planet is never far from the headlines these days. So businesses of all sizes, and across every sector, are undoubtedly aware of the need for solid sustainability and ESG (environmental, social and governance) policies.

But many will need support and guidance in ensuring that they deliver robustly on these practices. This is where EY can help as it has a sustainability practice of over 3,000 FTEs which work around the globe supporting clients as they strive to become more sustainable – addressing the key sustainability and ESG challenges which many organisations are currently facing.

The global professional services organisation has multidisciplinary teams supporting them on strategy implementation, supply chain redesign, ESG reporting compliance and also ESG technology innovation and reporting solutions across financial and non-financial companies.

Collectively, it supports its clients to create financial, consumer, human and societal long-term value for all stakeholders.

As partner and the lead for climate change and sustainability (CCaSS) for EY Ireland, Derarca Dennis leads a team of experts who are on hand to support clients as they adapt their businesses through decarbonisation, sustainability strategy, non-financial reporting and external reporting assurance.

Implement and sustain

She says that it is vital for companies to develop sustainability and ESG practices and, together with her team, can help them to implement and sustain these new policies.

“As we continue to face the ongoing climate challenges we have witnessed in Ireland and across Europe in recent weeks, investors and society continue to challenge the way in which people conduct their business,” she said. “Rethinking how we write business and understanding the key drivers behind their sustainability impact create a huge opportunity for companies to innovate.

“So, putting yourself in the shoes of your client and thinking how you can impact their carbon footprint is already a differentiator in the market. And as a supplier you can become part of your customers’ solution and embed yourself into their value chain.”

Becoming a more sustainable business in the long term will support talent attraction and retention, and frankly having ESG at the heart of all your business decisions will become a licence to operate by 2030.

With over 20 years of professional experience in financial and non-financial reporting, Dennis says that most organisations on a global level are currently endeavouring to understand their impact and assess their greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs ).

“This is addressing part of the equation and links to the government’s climate action plan of a 51 per cent reduction of GHG emissions by 2030, relative to its 2018 levels,” she said. “So companies are establishing sustainability teams – often called ‘green teams’ – to address the broader business challenges such as infrastructure adaptation, waste management (food and production by-products), and supply chain reviews, to name just a few.

“The key being to identify what are the most material items which impact your business via an impact assessment in the first instance. Thereafter, best practice would be to develop a roadmap to deliver these changes and assign resources to support the Nchange.”

Number of tactics

Dennis, who oversees a team of climate change and sustainability experts who focus on advising private and listed companies on climate and sustainability business solutions, says there are a number of tactics which companies can use to respond to investor expectations.

“I think that transparency on what they have done and what they will do in coming years to address either carbon emission and/or regulatory reporting requirements is where people are at,” she said. “The agenda has moved so quickly in the past 18 months, it’s no longer credible to say nothing, nor is it easy to commit to getting it all right.”

And when it comes to environmental resilience, there are a variety of incentives available which she says will be of benefit to companies.

“There are a number of government-led initiatives in place with regard to infrastructure and training,” she said. “There are grants from the likes of the SEAI and support via the various local county council initiatives across the country.

“The area of environmental resilience is a challenging one as it needs a collective response to be successful, so while one company can have a ‘perfect plan’, it may have unintended consequences for its immediate neighbour by diverting flood water away into someone else’s property or agricultural land.”

The sustainability expert, who previously led the Financial Accounting Advisory Services (FAAS) team, says that although there are some hurdles which SMEs may need to overcome to succeed on their net-zero journey, there are some supports available.

“There are lots of challenges for SMEs as they have limited resources and funding,” she said. “But there are a number of initiatives aiming to support this sector – and Business in the Community, the various chambers of commerce across Ireland, the Environmental Protection Agency and SEAI all have various programmes supporting decarbonisation and supporting SMEs to address their net zero journey.

“But a key challenge is that time is not on our side, globally or locally, and new regulation around reporting is demanding insight and knowledge across the value chain that currently many consider proprietary information. So there is a mindset change required for many, which is never easy. But the opportunities are numerous, and becoming more aligned with your customers and embedded in their business, supports your own company’s economic resilience.

“The culture of innovation which will be required to solve ESG challenges is something that is not new to corporate Ireland, so we are all well placed to position ourselves in a global stage. Becoming a more sustainable business in the long term will support talent attraction and retention, and frankly having ESG at the heart of all your business decisions will become a licence to operate by 2030.”

While there is no doubt that developing and implementing sustainability and ESG policies is imperative in business today, some companies may find it difficult, but Dennis says that EY is there to offer support and advice to firms of all sizes.

“We have built a multidisciplined team to support on all of the challenges over the past decade,” she said. “And we have a global network that supports companies by sharing best practice to support companies as they assess how best to integrate sustainability in their business.”

This was originally published by Business Post.