Leisha John – Americas Director, Environmental Sustainability, Ernst & Young

Leisha John

Meet one of PINK’s Top 10 Women in Sustainability, 2011!

By Rachel Pomerance

Green nail polish is the dead giveaway that Leisha John lives this stuff. “I drive a hybrid, use shower timers, compost and buy locally-grown produce. We have the lowest utility and water bill [in the neighborhood],” she says. As the CPA with more than 25 years experience at the firm, John adds, “I’m lucky to work in an area that I’m passionate about and allows me to make a difference every day.”

In the job more than two years, John is the first to assume Ernst & Young’s directorship of sustainability. In fact, the role was the first of its kind among the Big Four accounting firms. For the last two years, John has worked to embed a sense of eco-consciousness among the more than 41,000 professionals working for Ernst & Young Americas, across 180 offices from Vancouver to Santiago.

Best practices and programs with the biggest impact?

  • The Carbon Footprint Project: An effort to reduce Ernst & Young’s 187,000 metric tons of CO2 emissions – largely as a result of business travel and office energy consumption – the firm’s carbon fooprint “is the most important indicator we have in this area,” John says. “As a CPA working in a Big Four accounting firm, I can appreciate that numbers mean a lot – we are auditors at heart! We reduced our carbon footprint by 33,200 metrics tons of CO2 over our 2008 baseline year – or 15 percent. According to the Environmental Protection Agency’s website, that is the equivalent to taking 6,600 passenger cars off the road!”

  • Employee Engagement and Enthusiasm: Through the firm’s EcoCare program, more than 1,000 employee volunteers provide their local colleagues with sustainability tips. And sometimes, they spread. After Ernst & Young’s Mexico City office seeded 4,500 trees, the concept took root across its offices in Central America.

  • Banning Wasteful Materials: “It all started when we first eliminated the cardboard take-out and the plastic trays from the cafe in our U.S. headquarters,” explains John. “Employees immediately pointed to the Styrofoam soup containers. It seems every time we make an improvement, it engages our people more and in turn, they raise their expectations, which is exactly what we’re hoping for.”

What’s next?

  • Streamline: Cut costs and waste through efficiency. The firm’s use of double-sided printers and re-manufactured toner cartridges – a choice that has already saved the company 70 million sheets of paper and more than $1 million in two years.

  • Recruit and Retain Talent: Since 75 percent of employees in John’s jurisdiction say they care about the environment, and new graduates cite a commitment to these issues, sustainability will remain a company priority.

  • Green the Offices: About one-third of its more than 80 U.S. office buildings are to be LEED-certified by 2012.



Rachel Pomerance, a writer and public relations professional, specializes in sustainable transportation at Pomerance & Associates. The all-female firm, which is owned by her mother, Barbara Pomerance, manages the communications for the Washington Auto Show®.

Share this Article