Inside View: Ernst & Young Sustainability Consulting

Simon Abrams, EY's senior manager for climate change and sustainability, on MBA jobs

Simon Abrams, senior manager for climate change and sustainability at consultants Ernst & Young, has just finished wrapping up a talk on growth in impact consulting when he spots my approach.

He stands well over 6 ft, and says, getting straight to the point: “There are really good jobs which need really good people.”

Bespectacled and towering, he’s sporting a blue suit and wry smile. Social impact, he says, is increasingly important for every sector. That might explain what he’s doing at Oxford University’s Saïd Business School, waxing lyrical to rows of MBAs pondering their next career move.

The business of impact consulting is booming. And EY, one of the Big Four professional services firms, wants a slice of the pie. Its climate change and sustainability team is trying to align sustainability with core business priorities. This is a growing issue for chief executives, according to a survey of Fortune 500 firms by Deloitte, one of EY’s key rivals.

“This is such a new and emerging field,” Simon says, and there are job opportunities because the issues are so broad.

With the UN’s Millennium Development Goals agreed last year, and the COP21 climate talks in Paris, there has never been a better time for businesses to take a look at sustainability. Many of them are. As a result, firms like EY need talent to advise companies on things like CSR, carbon pricing or impact investing.

“More and more people are starting to say impact measurement is important,” says Simon.

He adds: “The commitments made by governments and the implications for businesses will shape consulting trends for years to come. A whole range of different issues will generate trends for the consulting industry.”

So what do you need to get hired by EY?

“No experience is bad experience. Demonstrate a passion and enthusiasm, and explain why you want to be in this area,” he says. “Think about what skills you’ve learned and the networks you’ve grown. Don’t go for jobs where you are competing with graduates [undergraduates] if you have more, and unique, experience. And be as commercially aware as possible.”

Is an MBA a benefit?

“Most people [on my team] have a master’s degree. If you’ve done an MBA and environmental modules, that’s a benefit.”

Simon “did half an MBA at Henley [Business School], then a master’s in environmental technology at Imperial” College London. 

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