EY is now carbon negative, a major milestone in its carbon ambition

9 minute read 20 Oct 2021
Authors
Carmine Di Sibio

EY Global Chairman and CEO

Passionate about our clients and the power of our global organization. Driver of growth and innovation. Relationship builder. Sports fan.

Steve Varley

EY Global Vice Chair - Sustainability

Passionate about sustainability, diversity and entrepreneurship. Husband and father of two. Triathlete.

Local contact

EY Norway Managing Partner

Country Managing Partner of EY in Norway. Committed to forging visibility of women, especially in leadership positions. Farmer and equestrian.

9 minute read 20 Oct 2021

EY has reached this target by reducing absolute emissions, and then offsetting or removing more than the remaining amount of EY emissions, every year.

In brief
  • EY has reached a major milestone in its four-step carbon ambition and is now carbon negative.
  • The organization continues to focus on reducing absolute emissions in-line with its science-based target and is on-track to reach net zero in 2025. 
  • EY teams are using their experience alongside the services, recommendations and people to help others decarbonize and transition to a green future.

The science is more conclusive than ever – even with the actions being taken today, the planet will continue to heat up for many decades to come. As the most recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report highlights, “global warming of 1.5°C and 2°C will be exceeded during the 21st century unless deep reductions in carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gas emissions occur in the coming decades.” This latest report, published in August 2021, underlines that we can and must act now to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.

Momentum is building toward decarbonization, but for some industries it will be harder to abate than others in the timeframes needed. Infrastructure, investment, business models, supply chains and technology will take time and decisive effort to evolve, meaning it will take some longer than others to reduce carbon to the levels required to cap warming at 1.5° C.

Those who can go further and faster must do so now. Those who can go beyond neutral or zero should accelerate their actions to do so. Where possible, these efforts should come with a commitment by business to help others do the same – collaborating with customers, suppliers, communities, and competitors to accelerate their transitions to a low-carbon future.

“As the risks posed by the climate crisis become ever clearer, business needs to change, and change fast,” says Carmine Di Sibio, EY Global Chairman & CEO. “Immediate and collective action is needed to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. Net zero targets must be set and delivered, and those who have the ability to go even further must do so.”

How we’ve achieved carbon negative status

EY is delivering its four-point carbon ambition, launched in January 2021, and continues to actively reduce its absolute emissions in line with its Science Based Targets Initiative (SBTi) validated 1.5°C pathway. This will bring EY to the more ambitious target of net zero in FY25, requiring EY teams to reduce their emissions in line with its approved science-based target, while continuing to offset more carbon than the remaining balance.

FY21 emissions have been reduced, globally and across all scopes, both by the significant reduction in business travel due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing process of our seven-point carbon action plan, which will continue to focus on the active reduction of emissions.

As the risks posed by the climate crisis become ever clearer, business needs to change, and change fast.

In FY21, EY emitted 394k tons of carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2e) compared to 976k tons of CO2e in FY20 – a decrease of 60%. This represents a 71% decrease from the 1,354k tons of CO2e emitted in the FY19 baseline year. However, the EY carbon ambition will help keep emissions below its 1.5°C pathway in FY22 and beyond, and EY will remain carbon negative as more usual business practices return.

To become a carbon negative organization, EY teams have invested in a carbon offset portfolio with South Pole that includes carbon removal projects. South Pole is a leading project developer and global climate solutions provider. The portfolio includes multiple projects around the world that offset or remove carbon through reforestation, regenerative agriculture, biochar, and forest conservation. The projects contribute to removing or offsetting a total of 528k tons of CO2e, representing 134% of the EY FY21 footprint, making EY carbon negative.

“Carbon negative is when an organization removes even more carbon than it emits. It requires both the setting of a science-based target to reduce emissions to get to net zero and offsetting or removing even more of its unavoidable emissions,” says Steve Varley, EY Global Vice Chair – Sustainability. “Even before an organization reaches net zero, it can proactively manage emissions beyond balancing them out at neutral.”

EY believes that a comprehensive decarbonization strategy must include a rapid reduction in organic emissions and investments in both nature-based solutions and innovative technologies that support the removal of carbon from the atmosphere. In addition to the nature-based offsets and removals projects above, EY has also signed a Memorandum of Understanding for future offtake using DAC (direct air capture) from a pioneering new project that pulls in atmospheric air, then, through a series of chemical reactions, extracts the carbon dioxide. From this, it creates a pure and compressed form of carbon dioxide that is stored permanently underground while returning the rest of the clean air to the environment. This mimics what trees do naturally, faster, and on a smaller footprint that is scalable.

EY teams will continue to invest in a diverse carbon reduction portfolio and to support emission reductions and innovative removal projects to help support the development of critical climate technologies needed to meet global climate goals. This will help drive down the price per ton of CO2e removed over time and bring down the cost of net zero compliance globally – for organizations, countries, and the planet.

How we’re helping others decarbonize

EY, like many professional services organizations, has a less complex supply chain than some other industries like manufacturing and retail. The EY journey to carbon negative has not come with the challenges and complexities that many others face, especially in hard-to-abate industries. However, when coupled with investments in sustainability-focused people, solutions and services, EY is helping others, both large and small, to decarbonize.

In addition to working directly with clients, EY member firms are also collaborating with other leaders and driving progress through its work with the Sustainable Markets Initiative, the S30 forum of Chief Sustainability Officers led on behalf of His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales, the WEF Alliance of CEO Climate Leaders, the Taskforce on Nature-related Financial Disclosures (TNFD), The Taskforce on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD), the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), and other multilateral organizations. These efforts will only increase as we approach, and go beyond, COP26 in November 2021.

Through collaborating with others, we’ll find the collective solutions that’ll help us all reduce emissions. After all, sustainability is everybody’s business.

Through our global corporate responsibility program EY Ripples, we leverage EY people’s skills, knowledge and experience to accelerate environmental sustainability across our communities. We focus on driving the adoption of business models, technologies and behaviors that protect and regenerate the environment, and unlock economic opportunities in transitioning to a circular, regenerative economy. To date, over 17,500 colleagues from over 115 countries have participated in over 220 EY Ripples environmental sustainability-related projects, positively impacting more than 700,000 lives.

As the climate science clearly shows, it is critical that we reduce the amount of carbon in the atmosphere. But we cannot do it on our own: everyone must play a role, and those of us who can go even further, should do so. Together, we can rise to the challenge of carbon negative and build a better, and more sustainable, working world.

“The challenges of climate change and decarbonization need answers that can only be found together. Through collaborating with others, we’ll find the collective solutions that’ll help us all reduce emissions,” says Carmine Di Sibio. “After all, sustainability is everybody’s business.”

  • Glossary of key decarbonization terms

    Science-based target (SBT): A target set for reducing emissions of greenhouse gases by an amount that is in line with the Paris Agreement goal (to 1.5˚C above pre-industrial levels)

    Carbon neutral: Achieved when an organization removes and offsets carbon dioxide emissions equivalent to its carbon footprint each year but isn’t actively reducing the total amount they emit

    Net zero: Achieved when an organization has reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by an amount that is in line with the Paris Agreement goal (to 1.5˚C above pre-industrial levels) and is removing the remainder to take them to zero

    Carbon negative (also known as net negative): EY defines carbon negative as being the result of an organization both reducing its emissions in line with its 1.5˚C SBT and investing in nature-based solutions and carbon technologies to remove and offset more carbon than it emits each year. This can be achieved prior to an organization reaching net zero but is dependent on it having set a science-based target, then validated by the SBTi.

    Emission scopes:

    Emissions are split into three categories by the Greenhouse Gas Protocol:

    •            Scope 1: All direct emissions from the activities of an organization or those under its control

    •            Scope 2: Indirect emissions from electricity purchased and used by an organization

    •            Scope 3: All other indirect emissions from activities of an organization, excluding electricity

    For EY, scopes 1 and 2 are largely related to office energy, while scope 3 is primarily from business travel.

Summary

EY is proud to become carbon negative as it works to reduce its absolute emissions on the journey to net zero in 2025. It is using its experience, services, solutions and people to collaborate with others and help them transition to a low carbon future.

About this article

Authors
Carmine Di Sibio

EY Global Chairman and CEO

Passionate about our clients and the power of our global organization. Driver of growth and innovation. Relationship builder. Sports fan.

Steve Varley

EY Global Vice Chair - Sustainability

Passionate about sustainability, diversity and entrepreneurship. Husband and father of two. Triathlete.

Local contact

EY Norway Managing Partner

Country Managing Partner of EY in Norway. Committed to forging visibility of women, especially in leadership positions. Farmer and equestrian.