EY chief Steve Varley takes on global sustainability role

Steve Varley, senior managing partner at EY, is stepping down as managing partner of the UK firm to take on a role as global vice chair for sustainability at the Big Four network

This is a new role and will see Varley, who has been EY UK & Ireland regional managing partner since 2011, resign this July after nine years at the top of the firm, although he will remain UK chairman.

Under his leadership, the UK&I region has achieved cumulative growth of 75% and compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 7.2%, reporting annual revenue of £2.45bn for year end 2019, up from £1.46bn in 2012, and moving up the Accountancy Daily Top 75 Firms ranking to third position.

A successor for the EY regional managing partner, UK & Ireland role, will be appointed in the coming months.  

EY said Varley would be responsible for helping clients achieve sustainability goals and also on reducing EY’s carbon footprint, working across all four service lines to lead the overall EY global sustainability strategy and help clients adopt technologies that create long-term value by achieving environmentally sustainable growth.

During his tenure as head of EY Varley worked closely with UK regulators and clients on critical business issues, including Brexit and technological disruption. He has also been a strong advocate of gender diversity and opportunity, and EY now has a fully gender balanced UK LLP board, while changes to recruitment have opened up more opportunities for minorities and non-degree school leavers.

Despite the high level of scrutiny of listed auditors, EY has weathered the very hostile audit environment, avoiding any substantial audit misconduct fines from the Financial Reportig Council (FRC) in the last three years. However, it is currently facing an investigation by the audit regulator over its auditing of failed tour operator Thomas Cook.

In terms of green credentials, under Varley’s leadership, the UK firm has reduced plastic consumption across all offices – removing over 7.7m single-use plastic items and introducing renewable biogas heating and hot water in UK offices where it directly purchases its energy.

Varley said: ‘We simply cannot stand still when it comes to protecting the environment and creating growth opportunities that are truly sustainable. I’m incredibly excited about leading this effort across EY to help drive progress towards a more sustainable future and build a better working world.’

EY is also working to improve environmental sustainability through its EY Ripples program, where staff dedicate their time and skills to diverse projects that help drive sustainable growth around the world.

Carmine Di Sibio, EY global chairman and CEO, said: ‘Sustainability is one of the key defining issues of our generation. Steve brings a wealth of knowledge and a strong track record of delivering real change with governments, policy makers, EY clients and people.

‘This appointment marks an inflection point for EY; we are poised to leverage the 284,000 EY people and our vast ecosystem – of clients and communities across more than 150 countries – to continue to build a better working world. I look forward to working with Steve in this new role.’

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