Young Leader Leverages Education and Networks to Pivot from Auditor to Sustainability Advisor

In a thought-provoking interview on the second episode of the new Chartered Accountants Worldwide webinar & podcast, Difference Makers Discuss .. Live, Maria Teo recounted her dynamic career journey and insights as an emerging leader in sustainability consulting.

After embarking on a traditional route into auditing post-university to build a strong technical foundation, Maria soon sought opportunities to transform business processes and expand her skillset. A secondment in the quality and training department enabled her to gain experience in managing teams, developing training materials, and implementing e-audit systems.

Eager to broaden her perspective, Maria completed a 6-month secondment with a UK firm where she compared audit techniques and manufacturing/retail clients versus purely financial sector clients in Singapore. This overseas exposure sparked a passion for collaborating across borders to share best practices.

Upon returning home, Maria pivoted into advisory services, starting in forensic accounting and fraud investigation where she became a Certified Fraud Examiner. As client demand grew around sustainability, Maria transitioned her skills into advising companies on ESG reporting and net zero strategies. She now serves as an Associate Director specializing in sustainability and risk consulting.

Maria emphasised the need for balanced sustainability reporting, leveraging accountants’ trusted reputation to combat greenwashing. She observed common starting points as establishing emissions baselines, human rights policies, or governance procedures and shared key steps like setting science-based targets and inventorying greenhouse gas emissions.

Driven by a desire to help businesses embrace sustainable development, Maria relishes opportunities to engage young professionals considering the profession. She urged broadening views on career pathways for accountants beyond audit and spreadsheets.

Maria also spotlighted the value of lifelong learning, pursuing formal education hand-in-hand with on-the-job training. This led her to gain multiple certifications relevant to her evolving advisory roles. Additionally, she encouraged accountants to tap institutes and networks early on for career development support and a community of peers – advice she wished she had received earlier.

As a newly elected council member, Maria aims to champion sustainable business practices and attract talent to the profession. She closed by calling for accessible sustainability education for all and collective action through small steps to drive progress.

Season 5 of the Difference Makers Discuss Podcast by Chartered Accountants Worldwide heralds insightful conversations with global leaders, innovators, and change-makers. Offering diverse perspectives on critical issues, this season explores finance, sustainability, diversity, and technology’s role in shaping a dynamic future. Engaging, thought-provoking, and impactful discussions await listeners.

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