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Jess O'Neal

Ideas to help you on your journey

Climate change can be the catalyst to help us rethink how we do business. Discover the people leading the change and what could be possible for your business.

Climate change is complicated. But that isn’t stopping people around the world from making a difference. At Deloitte, we’re lucky to have brilliantly diverse people leading our climate work. This series is a chance to find out more about them, their areas of expertise and why they’re passionate about our planet.

Today we are talking to Jess O’Neal, senior consultant in our climate change & environment studio.

From Kent to Myanmar

Childhood memories of walking through nature with her grandfather and exploring his garden full of frogs, newts and slow worms first sparked Jess’s interest in the natural world.

“My granddad was very close to nature,” she said. “He had a huge rambling garden in Kent which was full of wildlife. When we stayed with him, we would spend hours fishing in his ponds. He loved nature that was wild and untamed.”

This seed of interest grew into a more active concern when Jess visited South East Asia after university and saw the impact of environmental damage inflicted by plastic and pollution.

“Seeing beautiful but tarnished landscapes in countries like Myanmar with my own eyes made me realise the extent of the problem. There was pollution, litter and plastic waste, yet there was also no infrastructure to deal with them – the waste just melted into the ground. People in these areas often live off the land, so when the ecosystem breaks down, it’s these marginalised communities that are most affected.”

Jess in Myanmar

As the twig is bent…

Jess is the youngest of three sisters – all strong-minded and keen to debate on many social and political issues. The family dinner debates became increasingly dominated by topics of sustainability and the effects of climate change. And what can be done about it, especially in the world of business.

“I studied Industrial Economics at university where I first learnt about solutions like vertical farming, and it was by joining Deloitte that I found a way to skillset my interests with sustainability. My background may be in economics, but I’m particularly interested in solutions which learn from nature. For example, we can nurture ecosystems of mangroves, seagrass and soil to store carbon to offset hard to abate emissions. I find that fascinating!”

This fascination and passion has been part-inspired by a figure very close to home: “My mum has always been articulate and passionate. She has set up her own climate action group in Bracknell, which aims to put pressure on community leaders to develop ambitious climate plans.

“She is hugely supportive of me and the work I do – always driving me forward to do my best.”


Jess and her mum

…so grows the tree

And what about her best? What climate-related ventures at Deloitte is Jess really proud of? She suggests a project that combined technology, education, innovation and good old-fashioned fun: a virtual escape room.

“Last year I built a virtual escape room experience to get people engaged with climate change. It was set in the year 2050. You are trapped in a lab and there is a giant storm coming towards you. There is a puzzle to solve so that you can escape and travel back in time to prove to world leaders they need to act now.

“We have had a hugely positive response to the project internally and we are now working on ways to bring this to life for our clients too.”

On the horizon

So what’s next for Jess? She has ambitious plans to help clients accelerate change using innovation and start-up technology. One particular area of interest is the circular economy and Jess is determined to ensure she is at the cutting edge of knowledge and expertise.

“It is a fascinating concept which has the ability to reshape and revolutionise the way we operate,” she explained. “I have created and delivered internal training on this as well as completing an external course. I am currently building out an ecosystem of start-ups that can make this a reality for businesses.”

Jess is determined her passion and knowledge will help create a world that is both greener and fairer for all.

“We need to transition to a green economy where nature and humans not only co-exist but thrive – where we are more in harmony with the natural world and where society values more than just material financial growth.”

“We need to leverage the amazing stuff that’s coming out of technology and innovation and I am ready to grasp every opportunity to help this happen.”

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