Steve Varley becomes EY's first global sustainability leader

21 January 2020 4 min. read
More news on

As part of a major reshuffle among EY’s upper echelons, Steve Varley has been named as the Big Four firm’s first global sustainability leader. While EY’s UK and Ireland Regional Managing Partner will step down from the role to focus on his new global commitments, Varley’s successor can expect to face acute regulatory pressure in the wake of the collapse of Thomas Cook.

Steve Varley joined EY in 2005, following 14 years at Andersen Consulting and Accenture – where he had latterly been a Partner. In 2011, he assumed the position of Chairman and Managing Partner UK&I – as well as taking a seat on the Big Four firm’s EMEIA Executive Board.

Under his stewardship, the UK and Ireland have become one of the top regions for EY, with the UK accounting for a total of £2.45 billion in revenues and more than 15,000 EY people, and Ireland representing €200 million and 1,400 respectively. Over the nine years of Varley’s leadership, the region has retained this status by achieving cumulative growth of 75% and a compound annual growth rate of 7.2%.

Steve Varley becomes first EY Vice President of Sustainability

Part of EY’s formula for success over the last decade has been Varley’s close work with UK regulators and worked with EY clients on pressing business needs, including Brexit and technological disruption. The firm has also striven to improve its diversity and inclusion, and now has a fully gender balanced UK Board, with and more opportunities for minorities and non-degree school leavers.

Furthermore, on Varley’s watch, EY has reduced plastic consumption across all its UK&I offices – removing over 7.7 million single-use plastic items and introducing renewable biogas heating and hot water in UK offices where it directly purchases its energy.

As EY seeks to prioritise its sustainability efforts, this legacy has landed Varley the new role of EY Global Vice Chair in Sustainability. The appointment will come into effect in July, and will see Varley report directly to Carmine Di Sibio, the firm’s Global Chairman and CEO. The role will focus on helping our clients achieve sustainability goals and also on reducing EY’s carbon footprint. This will see him work across the four EY service lines to spearhead EY's global sustainability strategy and help clients adopt innovations and technologies that create long-term value by achieving environmentally sustainable growth.

Di Sibio said of the news, “Sustainability is one of the key defining issues of our generation and we believe EY has a significant contribution to make in addressing today’s environmental challenges... 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 our 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.”

Varley added, “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.”

Next UKI boss?

A successor to Varley in the EY Regional Managing Partner, UK & Ireland role will be appointed in the coming months. While this is set to spark a hard-fought leadership contest at the third-largest Big Four firm by revenues, the victor may find the position to be a poisoned chalice.

The professional services industry is currently coming under unprecedented scrutiny from politicians and regulators following a number of historic accounting blunders. EY in particular is currently being investigated by the Financial Reporting Council, to this end, with the audit watchdog probing its work for collapsed British holiday firm Thomas Cook.