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Introduction to Sustainability – A Multi-Year Retrospective

Develop an understanding of the sustainability landscape including origins of sustainability concepts. This course is designed to build literacy on why sustainability risks and opportunities are important for CPAs and other professionals in this critical area.

This course provides a high-level overview of why sustainability-related risks and opportunities are important for CPAs and other business professionals. We trace the origins of sustainability back to the environmental movements of the 1960s and 1970s and examine how since that time, the landscape has evolved, and sustainability has emerged as a critical global concept. It will also provide a walkthrough of various ways sustainability affects an organization and some historical background on the disclosure landscape and the lead up to the International Sustainability Standards Board (ISSB).

Note that members from British Columbia and Alberta will be able to register for this course via their provincial bodies; this product page will be updated once links are available.

Why should I take this course?

The first two courses of this program focus on developing literacy in the sustainability space. It is difficult to be a strategic advisor for an organization and aid with developing governance, internal controls and preparing information that is assurance ready if one does not understand at least some of what they are advising on. We’ve designed courses 1 and 2 to be basic information that builds a foundation of literacy and understanding that is an important foundation to effective reporting.

What’s in it for me?

The competency of sustainability is one of the largest disruptions in the profession in more than 100 years. Developing your knowledge is a gateway to opportunity in this growing field with an increasing number of roles such as sustainability controller popping up. Those who have a base knowledge in sustainability will become increasingly valuable to the organization as well, those that have well rounded financial and business acumen to accompany this knowledge will have a competitive skills advantage. Becoming a key resource at your organization will give you the opportunity to position yourself for more senior positions and add increasing value to your organization’s future.

Even if you are not a publicly traded company, organizations part of a larger value chain will experience needs from those they supply or provide services to. In addition, financial institutions, private equity, and other providers of capital are increasingly interested in key sustainability metrics for organizations of all sizes.

Learning objectives:

  • Define sustainability and explain the differences and similarities between sustainability and ESG
  • Explain factors driving increasing demand for sustainability information and understand the evolution of sustainability and reporting
  • Identify the key sustainability elements for a finance professional and identify the various sustainability standards and frameworks, including the differences and similarities between them
  • Determine the impact of sustainability risks and opportunities to impact business

This is the first of four courses within the certificate program: A New Frontier, Sustainability and ESG for CPAs. In the new CPA competency map levels this course would be considered a level 1 or 2.

The course is comprised of three online modules:

  1. Introduction to the course
  2. What is ESG and Sustainability
  3. Organizational Impacts of Sustainability

The course includes interactive e-Learning slides, audio, knowledge checks and an end of module multiple-choice quiz (needing 80% or higher with three attempts).

Notes for CPA Alberta and CPA British Columbia members for purchase:

  • CPA Alberta members are encouraged to purchase Course 1 directly from your provincial body here.
  • CPA British Columbia are encouraged to purchase Course 1 directly from your provincial body here.

  • Sustainability over the years
  • Rise of intangibles in business value
  • High level understanding of ESG rating and rankings
  • Sustainability frameworks and standards
  • Sustainability principles and guidelines
  • Organizational Impacts of sustainability risks and opportunities

The certificate and its courses are intended to build capacity in two distinct groups of professionals.

Early to mid-career CPAs that have at least two to 10+ years of designated experience and MBA / business professionals that work in:

  • the private sector (e.g., publicly listed companies, private companies)
  • public accounting firms
  • management / consulting firms

Within those groups, we expect the following roles to align with this course and its objectives:

  • New CPA and business roles in sustainability and climate change
  • Reporting Lead / Manager roles in public reporting (e.g., MD&A, AIF (annual information form), analyst reports / presentations, etc.)
  • Financial Statement preparers
  • Senior / Executive leaderships roles wanting a high level understanding of the ESG landscape.

Sustainability and ESG considerations are fundamentally changing how organizations plan and execute their strategy and operate and in doing so, are impacting the entire career spectrum. This product is designed with inclusion in mind; there is something for everyone.

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