Since 2009, Earthwatch and EY have collaborated to implement the EY-Earthwatch Ambassadors Program—a global mobility engagement program in which high-performing early-career professionals are selected to participate in one-week expeditions in Brazil and Mexico (prior expeditions also took place in Costa Rica). Ambassadors employ their unique skillsets to support local conservation efforts by consulting with local businesses and participating in dynamic environmental field research. Ambassador selection is based on applicants’ work performance and commitment to community engagement.
EY professionals gain hands on experience with both science and the business of sustainability through the EY-Earthwatch Ambassadors Program.
EY ambassadors with field staff at a coffee plantation in Costa Rica
The EY-Earthwatch Ambassadors Program launched in 2009 in Costa Rica, with a pilot team of 11 EY employees. The team spent the first part of the program receiving hands-on training in field research and farming practices. They also applied their business skills to support a local coffee cooperative called Coope Tarrazu. The program proved to be extremely successful and has grown in size and scope since then – expanding to 40 ambassadors per year in two different countries. Since 2009, more than 200 EY employees from across North and South America have participated in the EY-Earthwatch Ambassadors Program.
Through one-week field experiences, EY- Earthwatch Ambassadors volunteer their professional skills to benefit local community businesses through a skills-based project, offering their skills in business, marketing, project management, and other areas to businesses that need help growing their markets or expanding their reach. They spend the other half of their time contributing to scientific research projects on some of the world’s most pressing environmental challenges by collecting data alongside scientists. In addition, an alumnus from the previous year joins the new team of ambassadors to give guidance on their project.
For example, in 2015 EY-Earthwatch Ambassadors in Brazil supported a local eco-tourism hotel called the Pousada Rio da Prata, which also happened to be where the participants stayed during their expedition. The Pousada Rio da Prata is a family-owned small business that was looking to expand its client base and increase repeat customers. The EY team helped the owners develop new marketing and communications strategies and products. They also advised the Pousada on how to keep better financial control and planning.
Earthwatch’s collaboration with EY enables EY employees to broaden their global networks and mindsets, to strengthen their teaming and leadership skills, and to support their professional and personal growth. For example, 2015 EY-Earthwatch Ambassador Maria Kleiber felt the experience on her expedition in Mexico gave her a whole new sense of appreciation and motivation. “The expedition transformed my personal and professional views, and accelerated my growth more than I imagined. Through teaming with professionals from different backgrounds and geographies in Mexico, I was able to see how each team member brought valuable contributions.” Having returned home, Maria shared that this experience helped her with a client project that required bringing together technical and business professionals from around the world. Maria has also continued to be a part of the program as an alumni group leader for the next year’s team of Ambassadors.
Participants return to their home offices with a renewed sense of commitment to community engagement and to the environment. As an example, after participating in his expedition, Paden Stephens, another 2015 EY-Earthwatch Ambassador, became the community engagement leader within his local office. He has since spearheaded many volunteer activities and begun to engage with a client’s corporate responsibility team to collaborate on projects.
Many participants integrate their experiences into their daily lives by volunteering with local community groups, training colleagues on sustainable business practices or becoming involved with the organization’s Climate Change and Sustainability Services (CCaSS) work.
From 2012 to 2015, EY sent three teams every year to countries in Latin America. In 2015, two teams went to Serra do Itajaí National Park in Brazil to support the strategic planning of a local eco-friendly hotel and an environmental consultancy company. They also gathered data on several bird species. The third expedition went to Xochimilco, Mexico to support local farmers in assessing the viability of sustainable farming methods and to collect water quality data throughout the wetlands. Read more about these EY-Earthwatch Ambassadors Program expeditions in Accounting Today or hear directly from one of our Ambassadors in her Earthwatch Unlocked blog post.
Additionally, in 2012, EY supported Earthwatch in the creation of the Earthwatch Urban Forest Program in cities such as Boston, San Francisco, Chicago and Atlanta. The one-day program was part of the firm’s annual day of community service, EY Connect Day, and was designed to ignite awareness among EY employees of the sustainability of urban forests. Volunteers produced meaningful scientific data that is used by local authorities and researchers to improve green space in local cities. From 2013 – 2015 more than 100 EY employees joined Earthwatch’s Urban Forest Program in Boston to measure and identify trees, learning about the important role of the urban forest in the city.
EY ambassadors giving farmers a presentation in Mexico
EY ambassadors identifying birds in Brazil
The program helped me develop a global mindset and a stronger commitment towards my community and the environment. As a young professional, it was meaningful to experience EY’s investment in my career through this international leadership opportunity. The program is intrinsically aligned with EY’s purpose to build a better working world by developing its people as its most valuable asset to provide sustainable growth and exceptional service.”
Brazil 2015 Ambassador
The expedition helped me realize that even as a young professional, I have valuable skills that can make an impact in our community. With that inspiration, I plan on increasing my involvement volunteering with local businesses and sustainability initiatives”
Brazil 2015 Ambassador
Upon my return from Xochimilco, I find myself changed, both professionally and personally. Personally, I never will take for granted the water from my faucet again. Professionally, I hope to make sustainability an emphasis of my career going forward by bringing leading sustainability practices to future client projects.”
Mexico 2014 Ambassador
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Coral Communities in the Seychelles began in 2006 to assess the impact of climate change on coral reefs and informing plans to help safeguard these precious ecosystems and the communities that depend on them.
Microsoft employees exchange the office for Oxfordshire’s Paradise Woods to take part in Earthwatch’s innovative one-day employee engagement program.
Earthwatch and Starbucks have partnered to support scientific research and employee engagement. Together, they’ve promoted sustainable farming practices in one of the world’s premier coffee-growing regions.