EY books mixed ESG progress in Oceania

12 December 2022 Consultancy.com.au 3 min. read
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EY Oceania has released its latest transparency report, covering progress in ESG areas such as sustainability, gender diversity, and Indigenous reconciliation with somewhat mixed results.

The professional services firm has released its follow-up to last year’s inaugural Oceania transparency report, which provided a baseline for the latest evaluation. Dubbed the ‘Value Realised Scorecard’, the report measures the firm’s performance across a range of key metrics and its progress towards stated goals, such as to sustainability, gender diversity, and Indigenous reconciliation among other areas.

In regards to footprint reduction efforts, EY says it remained carbon negative for the second consecutive year, and is on target to achieve net zero by 2025 as the first among its peers despite energy market issues impacting progress on securing a long-term renewable energy supply.

EY performance on ESG

Presently, EY offsets 120% of its emissions, although they rose by one half this year on the back of a partial post-Covid return to normal operations.

As a broader picture, the report states that EY would need to reduce its emissions by 40% on its 2019 financial year baseline to meet its 2025 net zero target. That figures include a more than one third reduction in business travel emissions – with flights being the firm’s largest single source of emissions. EY said that reducing non-client travel would be a priority over the coming year, before turning its focus on client travel thereafter.

As to gender diversity, the firm has also gone backwards in some measures, most specifically in respect to a rise in its pay-gap. EY however attributes this to a few factors, including an imbalance at management level due to certain difficulties in attracting and retaining women in senior roles, which then impacts on driving equality among the firm’s partnership ranks. This year, the proportion of female partners rose by 1 point to 30% overall.

Another factor cited by Mathew Nelson, named last year as EY’s first ever Chief Sustainability Officer and a contributor to the report, was the nature of the capabilities the firm has had to bring in and the gender breakdowns among its business acquisitions, which largely added new male partners. Still, despite describing it as a challenge, Nelson stated that the firm was still confident of hitting its 2026 target of a 40% ratio of female partners.

In terms of EY’s commitments to reconciliation, while the number of full-time Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employees hadn’t increased over the past year, cultural awareness training undertaken by staff-members firm-wide jumped by more than 1,000%, with over 6,300 people taking part. Pro bono hours with Indigenous organisations also increased, as did spending with First Nations suppliers, which was up by 64% on last year.

In response to the report, EY Oceania regional managing partner David Larocca said that while he is proud of the leadership and bold course the firm is charting, there remained further work to do. “While we are pleased with our progress on many measures, we remain committed to understanding and improving our performance and impact. As ever, we must strive to do better, ask better questions, and identify our areas for improvement.”