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At Ernst & Young, a chance for a free trip abroad to support conservation

Company: Ernst & Young.

Location: Offices in McLean and the District.

Employees: about 1,700 locally; 167,000 worldwide.

Last summer, Barbara Jackson’s employer paid for her and nine colleagues to travel to a remote area near Guaraqueçaba, Brazil. The team worked to assess the extent of an erosion problem in the region, so they spent their days tracking the sounds and footprints of wildlife in the Atlantic Forest and measuring the height and density of its trees.

Jackson and her co-workers aren’t scientists. They are accountants and consultants at professional services giant Ernst & Young, and they were able to make the trip as part of their employer’s partnership with nonprofit group Earthwatch Institute.

Ernst & Young established this program four years ago as part of an effort to demonstrate its commitment to conservation and to foster a “global mind-set” among staffers, said Deborah Holmes, the director of corporate responsibility for the London-based company’s Americas division.

The program is open to junior employees with one to four years of experience and an outstanding performance track record. Holmes said they are looking for applicants who show “an ability to roll with the punches,” because the trips to far-flung areas are “not for the faint of heart.”

Only 30 candidates are accepted each year to go on one of three trips to Brazil or Costa Rica.

Participants are trained by Earthwatch’s scientists and then gather information to help the researchers.

Jackson, a staffer at the company’s McLean office, said she enjoyed the chance to spend so much time outdoors and to bond with her colleagues.

“It was so cool to see my co-workers in a cool, new light and experience something like that with them,” Jackson said.

Participants also do work that is more familiar by volunteering with a local business. In Brazil, Jackson and her team helped a local ecotourism company devise a strategic plan for growing its business and customer base.

Sarah Halzack is The Washington Post's national retail reporter. She has previously covered the local job market and the business of talent and hiring. She has also served as a Web producer for business and economic news.



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