Bachelor of Sustainability and Financial Management: Exploring career pathways

Ethan, a BSFM student student smiling for a photo

 Written by Ethan (he/him), student

Earning a Bachelor of Sustainability and Financial Management (BSFM) degree not only arms you with essential knowledge and skills but also unlocks unique career opportunities.

In the School of Accounting and Finance (SAF) at Waterloo, there are several distinct pathways that you can pursue. Each pathway offers unique prospects for professional growth and development.

In the Sustainability and Financial Management program, a joint program between the School of Accounting and Finance and the Faculty of Environment, you have the chance to follow one of three different pathways: Corporate Sustainability, Government Policy and Financial Markets, or Indigenous Entrepreneurship. While these pathways allow you to pursue traditional routes, holding an SFM degree also opens doors to new, innovative roles that haven't traditionally been available. With more companies focusing on the importance of sustainability and environmental, social, and governance (ESG) metrics, the number of jobs for BSFM students continues to grow at a rapid pace.

From accounting to climate reporting: Explore the corporate sustainability pathway!

Are you looking at the corporate sustainability pathway? Nice choice — it aligns with the Chartered Professional Accountant (CPA) curriculum. After earning your undergraduate degree, you can enter the Master of Accounting (MAcc) program at SAF. This pathway maps out a straightforward route to traditional CPA jobs, like a staff accountant role in areas like taxation, auditing, or other specialized fields. It also bridges the gap to exciting opportunities in emerging fields and roles, like climate reporting associates and ESG and sustainability consultants.

Climate reporting associate

In Canada, major businesses, governments, communities, and investors are expected to share their advancements in climate change and related matters. Voluntary reporting, incorporating frameworks like TCFD, ISSB's S2, Transition Plans, and regulatory reporting, has emerged as a crucial tool for fostering trust, drawing in investments, and ultimately generating value for institutions.

In roles like these, you have the chance to collaborate with financial institutions, companies, or public entities, aiding them in reporting their climate-related data. As a climate reporting associate, potential projects might involve:

  • climate reporting, following regulations or standards,
  • building internal consensus on ESG and climate strategy,
  • developing a reporting/communication strategy, and
  • producing content for key reports.

Ethan, a BSFM student working in a field

ESG/sustainability consultant

As a sustainability consultant at a consulting firm, the focus is on guiding clients in incorporating sustainable practices into their operations, strategies, and reporting. This involves working closely with businesses to navigate complex sustainability challenges, meet environmental and social goals, and boost their long-term value while staying in line with changing regulations and industry standards. Certain responsibilities in this role might include:

  • engaging with clients from various industries to understand their unique challenges and opportunities related to sustainability,
  • collaborating with teams to develop sustainability strategies that align with a client's business goals, and
  • analyzing the potential environmental, social, and regulatory risks that could impact the client's business.

Put a green spin on financial analysis by pursuing the government policy and financial markets pathway!

Interested in pursuing a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) designation? In this pathway, you'll delve into financial markets and government policy to champion sustainability goals. Plus, you'll kick off your CFA exam journey before you even graduate. While finance grads usually set their sights on investment banking, private equity, hedge funds, or portfolio management, exciting opportunities are popping up as companies create teams focused on sustainability. That opens doors to roles like a Sustainable Investment Analyst or an Investment Banking Analyst.

Ethan, a BSFM student planting a tree

Sustainable investment analyst

As a member of a sustainable investing team, you'll explore aspects of ESG considerations in investments. This role typically involves responsibilities such as:

  • benchmarking and identifying best practices in sustainability for both public and private companies,
  • providing ESG due diligence for investment opportunities,
  • conducting research to support ESG programs within portfolio companies,
  • investigating various sustainability topics, including but not limited to climate change and energy transition, resource efficiency, and human capital management, and
  • supporting ongoing risk monitoring activities for public and private equity portfolios.

Investment banking analyst ESG/sustainable finance team

As an investment banking analyst on a sustainable finance team, you'll play a pivotal role in bolstering the team's initiatives to promote environmentally and socially responsible financial solutions. This position sits at the intersection of finance and sustainability, allowing you to engage in transactions aligned with ESG principles and contribute to creating inventive strategies for a more sustainable global economy. Key responsibilities in this role may include:

  • mergers and acquisitions deal structuring and execution (analysis, due diligence, capital structuring, client communications, etc.),
  • industry and client research and analysis,
  • developing presentation materials and supporting client relationships,
  • assisting in identifying new client opportunities, and
  • conducting valuation analyses.

A group of students having a conversation while holding shovels

Sustainability and strategy is the key to success in the Indigenous entrepreneurship pathway!

The Indigenous entrepreneurship pathway gives Indigenous students a specialized focus on strategy and sustainability. Throughout this degree, you'll receive foundational training in financial management systems and sustainability and delve deeply into business strategic development.

By the time you graduate, you'll have all the skills needed to start your own business ventures or contribute to the growth strategies of existing start-up organizations. You'll be playing a vital role in the entrepreneurial world!

A Bachelor's degree in Sustainability and Financial Management doesn't just open doors — it unveils a whole range of career pathways. Whether it's corporate sustainability or diving into Indigenous entrepreneurship, the possibilities are both abundant and diverse. By picking the pathway that syncs up with your interests and strengths, you can set off on a rewarding professional journey in the ever-evolving intersection of sustainability and business.


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