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EY’s sustainability team shows no signs of growth slowdown

man standing by wall
Matthew Bell, EY

There’s a focus on community engagement at EY but the fastest growing service area is climate change work – from climate risk disclosures to gritty strategic work such as decarbonisation plans for governments.


It’s been close to a year since professional consultancy firm EY acquired the Australian and New Zealand arm of Karrikins Group, a large consultancy that delivers community investment services.

The acquisition landed around 100 more staff in the consultancy giant’s Climate Change and Sustainability Services practice – making it the largest sustainability team of any consultancy firm in the region according to EY Asia Pacific managing partner of climate change and sustainability services Dr Matthew Bell.

There’s now 250 people working across Australia and New Zealand on an expanding array of service areas related to climate change and sustainability.

The team’s growth shows no sign of slowing, with the company is recruiting for a number of roles across the country including a handful delivering a financial literacy program to secondary school-aged students nationally.

Its bolstered community investment and education services capacities have seen the company embark on a range of social impact projects, including a disability and inclusion program in primary schools in NSW for children’s charity, Variety.

All practitioners involved have a disability in some form, and the idea is to communicate to children with a disability that they are “just like them”. Bell told The Fifth Estate it’s a “beautiful and powerful program” that he hopes will be expanded.

It’s also running another educational program about responsible digital enablement, which involves teaching young people to engage with social media and the Internet responsibly.

“It includes teaching them about having computer time and non-computer time.”

Bell says that community engagement is nothing new to the team, and it’s been advising organisations on program design and measuring outcomes for some time. Traditionally, its work remained at the strategic level – “we hadn’t got down into the operational work and the implementation work”.

But the company recognised that its clients were struggling with the delivery component.

“If you are a telco, for example, you aren’t well place to do community engagement.”

That’s partly why it acquired Karrikins Group, which were the “best in the market” when it comes to community investment and education.

Bell say there’s strong demand for these services, which is positive given 60 of the world’s biggest economies are companies, not countries.

He says major corporations are “playing a larger and more impactful role” and there’s growing recognition that “cutting a philanthropic cheque isn’t having enough impact”.

Efforts are still piecemeal, he admits, “but on the rise”.

Climate risk services and long term property forecasting in hot demand

Despite the focus on community engagement, the fastest growing service area is climate change work. It’s not just climate risk disclosures, however, but gritty strategic work such as decarbonisation plans for governments.

In the built environment space, strategic planning is going way out into the future.

“We’re doing some really interesting megatrend thinking.”

He says organisations typically have strategies that look four to five years into the future “but the property space has recognised that it has buildings that last 40 to 50 years so they need to have a real lens into the future.”

The sorts of megatrends that might influence real estate in the future include climate change, mass urbanisation, international conflict, trade, behavioural patterns and expectations of consumers.

He says there’s a shift into this more strategic space for property clients.

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