Smith Ethics Lecture Series Features Leisha John of Ernst &
What do greening, accounting, and sustainability have in common?
At Ernst & Young (E&Y), all three practices collide. Leisha John, Americas
Director of Environmental Sustainability at E&Y, shared her insight on the
firm’s approach to corporate responsibility on Monday, March 23. The
presentation was part of the Smith School’s
spring 2009 Ethics Lecture Series.
John discussed environmental responsibility at E&Y, a key component of the
firm’s corporate responsibility program.
During the lecture John presented a case study which described E&Y’s program
to eliminate the use of cups that are not biodegradable. E&Y has been providing
eco-friendly cups for clients and external guests, and encouraging firm
personnel to use reusable cups or bottles of their own. E &Y gave firm personnel
ceramic mugs last year in an effort to ease the transition. During 2009, E&Y
will eliminate cups that are non-biodegradable from its U.S. offices.
In a subsequent interview, John indicated that the firm’s future plans
include local greening partnerships with K-12 schools and ensuring eco-program
consistency in the firm’s international offices.
More and more organizations are, like E&Y, focusing on sustainability, and
the Smith School is seeking to prepare students to thrive and prosper in this
new work environment. Smith’s new Initiative for Social Value
Creation aims to develop global leaders and enterprises that address
challenges in the areas of social innovation, economic prosperity, and
sustainable change. The initiative’s focuses are on social entrepreneurship,
environmental sustainability, and business model innovation.
The Social Ventures Consulting Program connects MBA students with non-profit
organizations to provide practical consulting experience over three months.
Students involved will provide related financial, marketing, operational,
organizational, and strategic advice. Nearly 60 students have assisted over 25
organizations since 2006.
At Smith, student organizations like the MBA-sponsored Net Impact and the
undergraduate-run Society for Green Business encourage campus greening
initiatives, curriculum change, lecture series, and career opportunities in
corporate and social responsibility. The Dingman Center for
Entrepreneurship is actively involved in supporting and funding green or
Many lessons from E&Y’s sustainability programs are applicable to the Smith
School’s efforts. In the interview, John said that in her experience, executive
leadership is essential to demonstrate the importance of being environmentally
sustainable. At the Smith School, John thinks student participation in
environmental sustainability is particularly important, too. “It's important to
involve the students – a 'grassroots' effort is key. The students need to 'own'
the greening efforts,” said John.
Donna K. Lin, MBA Candidate 2009