You are here

Let's talk about sustainability—both for your career and the environment. Earning your Chartered Professional Accountant (CPA) designation can do plenty for your career's sustainability; it'll arm you with in-demand financial skills suited for any industry. But, if you play your cards correctly, earning your CPA designation can push you towards an environmentally-friendly career, too. How, you ask? By using your accounting superpowers for good—and working in green industries. 

That's what Helene Reolen, a student in the legacy CGA program, did. After earning her designation, she became an accounting consultant for Down-to-Earth Solar Power Inc., an organization outfitting houses and buildings with renewable energy sources. (Via solar energy. Duh.)

"My position is giving me a real insight into Ontario's renewable energy industry," says Reolen. "Especially how the regulatory authority, the Ontario Power Authority interfaces with the various players in the industry."

And it's quite an industry: It's reputedly worth $82 billion worldwide. Solar panel prices and, accordingly, the price of solar power, is decreasing, meaning it's becoming more affordable for average people. And Ontario's Green Energy Act—criticized as it may be—intends to shift much of the province's energy to solar power. For Reolen, it means being involved in a growing energy industry while keeping her conscience clean.

"It was a very proud day for me when I got hired in the green industry," she adds. "I strongly believe it's the right footprint for the long-term and a pragmatic model for my children to emulate. I believe the position will help me develop as a greener, more responsible individual. Not only professionally, but also socially and personally."

Reolen's not alone. Patrick Kirby, CPA, CGA, is using his accounting designation to work with The Canadian Wind Energy Assocation, a not-for-profit which aims to advance the wind power industry. That, too, is profitable: In Canada, wind power production capacity increased 31 per cent last year. Our wind energy capacity is now ranked sixth globally. And in 2013, there are new wind energy developments in Quebec, Ontario, Alberta, B.C., P.E.I., and Nova Scotia. 

“The industry is developing very dynamically in Canada right now,” he says. “But it’s very hard to plan into the future because there is so much uncertainty politically and economically.” 

Fair enough. Yet with a CPA designation, it's also possible to work in other green industries—take the case of Jane Yan, CPA, CGA, a distribution cost analyst with Ecolab.  They provide green sanitation products, which cover water treatment, vehicle care, pest elimination and more. 

"The whole management's goal, which is also part of my goal, is to control the waste water, chemical disposal and energy cost. I work with people at different levels…. to make sure that commitment is fully met."

Yet for Yan, a green career wouldn't be possible without earning her CPA designation. "The legacy CGA program was a great help to my career," she adds. "A lot of great opportunities are hidden behind [closed] doors. A professional accounting designation like the CPA designation gives you the key."

It's a statement Reolen echoes. "Thanks to the legacy CGA program, I have developed a wider network of professionals who share similar interests," she says. "It's gratifying to interact with such a great peer group."

Learn more about the CPA designation here.

Photo: artJazz/Thinkstock