Ernst & Young
employee excursions ernst young

A one-week trip to the Brazilian rainforest changed the course of Andrew Soulier's career. As part of a team of 10 Earthwatch Ambassadors, the Ernst & Young manager spent his mornings hiking through the jungle, measuring tree diameters, and gathering other data for scientists looking to document native biodiversity.

In the afternoons, the team helped small businesses in GuaraqueƧaba, on the east coast of Brazil, improve their business practices, cut costs, improve marketing, and develop strategies for attracting ecotourism to the region.

"They are climbing up mountains and fording muddy rivers and living in barracks and spending the entire time together wearing the same clothes. It's not your usual office assignment," says Deborah Holmes, E&Y Americas director of corporate responsibility.

The Earthwatch Institute trains Ernst & Young employees in data collection and oversees the program, which was designed to be a high-visibility signal of the firm's commitment to corporate responsibility and the environment. The program gives young professionals, often more environmentally concerned than their older colleagues, exposure to an emerging market and a hands-on green experience. Only high-performing employees are eligible to apply, and just one in 10 applicants wins a spot.

Soulier recalls the accommodations on the farm that housed the team as no-frills: zero Internet access and a separate building for the shower and bathroom. While in Brazil, he also met with Ernst & Young executives involved in local sustainability projects as well as the team working on the Rio 2016 Olympic Games -- valuable contacts that have helped him expand part of his career into South America. Now, he's working on a couple of green building projects in Brazil and helping benchmark energy use in building portfolios.

  @FortuneMagazine - Last updated May 23 2013 01:52 PM ET
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