Why SFM?

Thursday, November 11, 2021

Pamela Steer
Pamela Steer, (MAcc ’94, FCPA, FCA, CFA) is a bilingual transformative executive and experienced corporate director with more than 20 years of experience in the technology and financial services industries. Pamela was honoured in 2019 as Canada’s CFO of the Year and named the School of Accounting and Finance’s Alumni Achievement Award Recipient in 2020.

Pamela is a frequent speaker and contributor on topics of transformation, culture, sustainability, and diversity and inclusion.


All around the globe we’ve had some tough news over the past couple of years. The climate crisis is real, and we are feeling the effects, both in Canada and throughout the world. The COVID-19 pandemic has also impacted everyone on the planet, causing significant upheaval, affecting families and lives through illness, lockdowns, and isolation. These crises have also highlighted social injustice and areas where our society needs to make lasting improvements.  Canada is playing a considerable role on the path to a globally prosperous and sustainable future. With our strong resources sector, we must take action. We can and must help Canada transition into a greener, circular, and sustainable economy.

The challenges facing us are daunting. If you are someone thinking about your next step after high school, know that you can make a difference by being part of positive change and tackling these big challenges. You can have an important role in making a difference.

If you were thinking about finance or want to find out more, check out the University of Waterloo (UW) Sustainability and Financial Management (SFM) undergraduate program. Canada’s recognized leader in accounting and finance education, the School of Accounting and Finance (SAF) has partnered with the Faculty of Environment to launch the first undergraduate program in Canada where supporting the environment and social issues are combined with stellar financial management education.

Why Waterloo and why the SFM?  Clearly, I’m biased as a proud alum of UW’s SAF, but hear me out. There are three main reasons why I think the SFM is a great opportunity for future leaders.

  1. The facts speak for themselves:
    1. The SAF is…
      1. #2 in Canada in Financial Reporting Research, 2020 Brigham Young University global accounting research survey
      2. 1st Canadian student team to capture a Global Championship at the CFA Institute Research Challenge in 2016
      3. SAF student teams have competed in the Americas Finals 8 times in the last 10 years of the CFA Research Challenge
      4. #1 in Canada in Tax, Accounting Information Systems & Management Accounting Research, 2020 Brigham Young University global accounting research survey
    2. The Faculty of Environment is…
      1. Canada’s largest Faculty of Environment
      2. Top 5 in Canada for Environmental Sciences, Geography, and Development Studies, QS 2021 World University Rankings
      3. Top 5 in the world for Climate Change research, QS 2019 World University Rankings
      4. #1 in the world in the World’s Challenge Challenge in 2019
  1. In addition to a great education and recognition as one of the top schools, Waterloo’s renowned co-op program provides real-world experience while you learn, helping build your résumé, skills, and knowledge, not to mention an income. UW and SAF work with top employers globally. One SAF student I mentor has had amazing roles at Pepsi, MNP, Canada Pension Plan Investment Board and is going to McKinsey in management consulting when she graduates! There are many paths and opportunities to explore as part of the co-op program. I love that students have the ability to try different roles and organizational cultures, all before graduation.
  1. Employment in sustainability and demand for professionals with sustainability knowledge and experience has grown dramatically over the last few years. Graduates with expert financial skills coupled with sustainability knowledge will be in great demand for years to come. This is not a fad, but a lifelong opportunity for an exciting career. In June 2021, PWC announced it would invest $12 billion USD over five years to create 100,000 new jobs aimed at helping its clients grapple with climate and diversity reporting and also in artificial intelligence as part of its new global strategy. Sustainability credentials will be non-negotiable in enterprises in the future.

I am a passionate advocate for sustainability, and I see the need for new professionals to have sustainability education and experience, coupled with excellent financial knowledge. I can see the day when sustainability and finance just become finance and good business. Concepts like the reporting framework arising from the Task Force for Climate-Related Financial Disclosures, the Value Reporting Foundation’s <Integrated Reporting> framework are still fairly new. In the future, all finance professionals will be expected to work with them. Already, my colleagues and fellow executives are seeking out team members who have demonstrated competence and interest in a combination of financial disciplines and environmental, social and governance (ESG) concepts like carbon measurement and abatement, social justice, and risk management. Why wait until you graduate? Finance leaders of tomorrow have a unique opportunity today to be an integral part of the change in how organizations look at long-term, sustainable value creation. The SFM program can provide you with the tools and the knowledge to put you on the path from the start of your career and accelerate your progress.  

UW is seeking the brightest and best minds to join the new SFM program. There are a limited number of spots for people who want to tackle the most important issues in the world today. Are you up to the challenge?