EY analyses carbon offsetting as a strategy for net-zero

Jennifer Leitsch of EY spoke to Cynthia Curtis from JLL about carbon offsetting as a feasible net-zero strategy and how Earth Day affects provokes change

Earth Day 2022 was perhaps one of the most significant forms of recognition of climate and environmental impact, particularly as it took place with a new level of insight from COP26. While many organisations have preached their commitments to emissions reduction, the question still remains as to how they will achieve their targets. 

Carbon offsetting is an interesting conversation that can split the crowd—some organisations think it’s a feasible option for eliminating their carbon footprints while others would disagree. This decision may also be a determining factor for investment as investment firms demand environmental, social and governance (ESG) action for businesses to secure funding for further development. 

According to EY, the ‘Invest in Our Planet’ strapline for the 2022 Earth Day event is a direct call to action for both businesses and investors to take initiative. In the lead up to the event, EY hosted a great podcast episode featuring Jennifer Leitsch, Managing Director in the Climate Change and Sustainability Services (CCaSS) practice at Ernst & Young LLP, and Cynthia Curtis, Senior Vice President for Sustainability at JLL—a real estate investment firm. 

A partner network is key to net-zero

Early in the discussion, Leitsch probes Curtis on JLL’s journey. In particular, she focuses on the input of third-party organisations in driving the company’s sustainability initiatives forward. 

Curtis responds: “It is such an important role. Actually roles, plural. You know, you look at third-party providers, and organisations, as they are partners. They are auditors in some cases, conveners, certainly cajolers and encouragers. And so, we work with the World Green Building Council. We work with the World Economic Forum (WEF). We work with Ceres, and a number of other organizations and SBTi, the Science Based Target initiative.”

The point that Curtis makes is that a network of multiple partners has supported the organisation to meet different business targets. 

“They all have a slightly different role to play and have played in our evolution. I would say, they can provide breakthrough moments, which we experienced and which, when I said, you know, roughly four, five years ago, there was a shift in our approach,” Curtis explains.

Businesses make a presence on Earth Day

“It's really interesting to see Earth Day, which historically has been very much about citizen activism and broad-based engagement kind of at the individual level,” says Curtis, talking about the changes that she has seen in the Earth Day demographic. 

The creation of the Earth Day event, which further led to ‘Earth Month’ was a feat of activism, but the attention has shifted in favour of a more collaborative effort from organisations. 

“It's been really interesting to see that shift, and I think it is in line with a broader trend or a theme around collaboration,” Curtis says. 

The shift in investors’ approaches and the changing requirements for action will likely encourage more discussions around carbon offsetting. However, many organisations will have to look beyond their operations—especially those adopting Science-Based Targets.

“It's such a nascent space, in many ways. One of the things I mentioned that, of our third parties that we work with is the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi). And one of the reasons why we feel strongly about that is to help do whatever we can do, to help drive standards and standardisation in this space,” Curtis says.

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