- Miranda Siu CA uses her accounting skills as a consultant in the carbon and climate resilience team at Edge Environment sustainability consultancy.
- She assists clients to make their businesses more sustainable by helping them understand their transition risks and co-designing a disclosure roadmap.
- Siu believes accountants have a responsibility to drive change in their organisations around sustainability and climate change.
By Stephen Corby
Miranda Siu CA wants people to know you don’t have to be a sustainability consultant to make a difference to the environment. While it’s easy to feel powerless when faced with a problem as overwhelming as climate change, “an individual can make a change,” she insists.
A few years ago, Siu turned up every week to Sydney’s Coogee Beach to pick up waste, only to return to find a whole lot more the following week.
“But I still did it. Whatever role you play, even if it’s just telling someone not to flick their cigarette butt in the gutter, it can actually make a difference.”
Siu confesses she never actually wanted to be an accountant. But it turned out she just needed 20 years and the evolution of a new kind of accounting to fall in love with it.
She majored in accounting for her Bachelor of Commerce from the University of Queensland at her father’s “strong recommendation”, because he insisted it was an industry that would provide her with solid employment.
And while she was never thrilled with the idea, he turned out to be right. In 2001, she got a job with BDO Kendalls and qualified as a CA in 2004. She worked her way through roles in auditing, superannuation and financial management, until she just couldn’t take any more.
“I felt like I was just moving numbers around,” she recalls. “I didn’t want to keep doing accounting – I wanted to find a way out.
“But you’ve got to pay the bills. I remember one day sitting in a meeting room with a spreadsheet on the overhead projector thinking ‘I don’t want to be here. These are just numbers; they aren’t changing lives. It’s just all about making profit – what am I doing?’”
A drive to change the world
The bigger problem was that Siu felt driven to do something more – and there didn’t seem be an opportunity to do so in accounting at the time.
“To this day, I still have sleepless nights worrying about things like sustainability and climate change. That’s something I’ve done since I was a teenager: worrying about the world’s problems and thinking, ‘What’s the solution? What can I do?’”
So, in 2006, she jumped on a plane and went looking for answers. She saw social injustice close up and was horrified by it in Latin America; explored the idea of sustainable tourism in Thailand; and, to pay the bills, undertook more accounting work for IBM in Dublin and BT in London.
With each job, Siu would try to persuade the organisation to adopt a sustainability agenda.
“I remember the last of those roles in London – with online travel company ebookers – trying to push sustainable travel,” she says. “I tried to make change within the organisation but it fell on deaf ears at the time. Nobody really cared.
“Today, things have changed so much that I think if I’d stayed, perhaps I could have driven the change. Most big companies now take it seriously, but back then it was very much just corporate responsibility. It was just ‘tick a box’ stuff.”
The opportunity for accountants
Following another trip, this time to Asia, Europe, the US, New Zealand and Iceland, Siu returned to Sydney at the start of 2020, just two weeks before the first COVID lockdown. She has since found her dream job with Edge Environment, a sustainability consultancy where she works as a consultant in the carbon and climate resilience team.
Edge Environment, a sustainability consultancy where she works as a consultant in the carbon and climate resilience team. Edge is focused on the Asia-Pacific and the Americas and recently opened a new office in Auckland.
Siu helps organisations understand and measure their carbon footprint and work out how to reduce or mitigate their emissions. There’s also plenty of work in climate-risk resilience, where businesses want to know how they’ll be able to cope with the effects of climate change and the transition risks related to moving towards a low carbon economy.
Siu’s accounting background is particularly helpful for Edge’s work for clients reporting with the Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) framework, which is expected to be adopted by the new International Sustainability Standards Board announced during COP26 in Glasgow. She helps clients understand their transition risks, does scenario analysis and co-designs a disclosure roadmap.
“I’m back in Excel spreadsheets but I’m doing it for a very different outcome – a very important one – helping clients decide how to transform their business for better and make informed, evidence-based decisions,” she says, sounding hugely enthused by numbers.
One client Siu worked with was commercial cleaning company BIC Services, helping it measure its carbon footprint and set a science-based target. That target was validated by a submission to the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi), a partnership between CDP – which runs a global disclosure system for environmental impacts – the United Nations Global Compact, World Resources Institute and the World Wide Fund for Nature.
Science-based targets provide companies with a clearly defined path to reduce emissions in line with the Paris Agreement.
“We have so many clients who genuinely want to take positive action,” says Siu. “It’s a very busy time to be working in this space due to increased interest to do better. If we can make the right decisions, we’ve got half a chance of actually helping to save the planet.
Picture: Miranda Siu CA. Image credit: Graham Jepson.
“If we can make the right decisions, we’ve got half a chance of actually helping to save the planet.”
“It’s taken me a while, but finally, at 42, I’ve found a job that I love,” she says, laughing.
An advocate for change
Siu is proud to chair the CA ANZ Sustainability Management Advisory Committee (SMAC), consisting of members who work in, advise or have a special interest in sustainability matters. SMAC facilitates the exchange of useful information on sustainability for the membership.
She believes there’s incredible opportunity for accountants to be leaders for change in their organisations because organisations depend on their finance teams for guidance.
“If that sustainability pillar is embedded in companies it can really be a game-changer, and I’m a big advocate for accountants absolutely being change-makers, and arming people with the right information,” she says.
It goes back to believing individuals can make a difference. “I get feedback from people I know that I’ve changed their behaviours, just through talking about things. I think that’s amazing,”
Siu says. “Sometimes just starting the conversation is enough.”
TCFD recommendations and recommended supported disclosures
Disclose the organisation’s governance around climate related risks and opportunities.
a. Describe the board’s oversight of climate-related risks and opportunities.
b. Describe management’s role in assessing and managing climate-related risks and opportunities.
Disclose the actual and potential impacts of climate-related risks and opportunities on the organisation’s businesses, strategy and financial planning where such information is material.
a. Describe the climate-related risks and opportunities the organisation has identified over the short, medium, and long term.
b. Describe the impact of climate-related risks and opportunities on the organisation’s businesses, strategy and financial planning.
c. Describe the resilience of the organisation’s strategy, taking into consideration different climate-related scenarios, including a 2°C or lower scenario.
Disclose how the organisation identifies, assesses and manages climate-related risks.
a. Describe the organisation’s processes for identifying and assessing climaterelated risks.
b. Describe the organisation’s processes for managing climate-related risks.
c. Describe how processes for identifying, assessing and managing climate-related risks are integrated into the organisation’s overall risk management.
Metrics and targets
Disclose the metrics and targets used to assess and manage relevant climate-related risks and opportunities where such information is material.
a. Disclose the metrics used by the organisation to assess climate-related risks and opportunities in line with its strategy and risk management process.
b. Disclose Scope 1, Scope 2 and, if appropriate, Scope 3 greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and related risks.
c. Describe the targets used by the organisation to manage climate-related risks and opportunities and performance against targets.
Source: Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures