Cyrus Cheung CPA (practising)

Cyrus Cheung CPA (practising), Partner, ESG Services at PwC, advises listed companies to develop and improve their ESG performance. He shares how a mindset of continuous learning took his career from audit to the global issue of sustainability

What have been the three biggest lessons in your career so far?

Be passionate in what you do. As you may be facing long hours and multiple deadlines, choosing a meaningful path will serve you well in the long run. I’ve also learned to hold a mindset of continuous learning. Going from working with annual audit and initial public offering (IPO) clients to taking up environmental, social and governance (ESG) advisory, ESG assurance, and green finance reporting work entailed a learning curve – but I learned the important lesson of embracing change and a growth mindset through my career. Lastly, learn from others’ experiences. It can be particularly helpful to receive advice from individuals who have been in your shoes. I am especially grateful to several partners for sharing their valuable experiences with me, which continue to help me in my work today as a young partner at the age of 35.

What do you like most about specializing in ESG or ESG-related assurance?

Similar to many individuals, I began my career focusing on assurance and IPOs. With ESG continuing to grow as a hot topic and global issue, I’m glad I had the chance to get involved in this topic. While my work primarily focuses on Mainland China and Hong Kong, I also have the chance to work with the global team. This enables me to take into account our firm’s global ESG developments and consider how the global landscape affects our local work.

In what ways has your CPA qualification helped you in your career?

As a CPA, quality is the number one priority. My analytical skills are important too. They allow me to identify key issues within a short time span, which helps me to share views and best practices with clients. Through auditing, I also had the chance to work with many individuals from different cultures. Through these interactions, I’ve honed my communication skills as a CPA, which is essential across industries and continues to be vital in my ESG work.

What is one of the most critical things for companies to get their journey to net-zero right?

Many companies are still at the beginning stage of their net-zero journey. At this stage, it’s critical to have clarity on a company’s current status, which includes understanding its existing carbon emissions and areas that generate the most significant emissions. Emission sources are not limited to the company itself, but are also related to a company’s indirect emissions, such as from business travels and its suppliers. Taking stock of this current status may sound elementary, but it is an important initial step before moving on to setting specific targets and actions of reducing emissions.

The IFRS Foundation recently announced the formation of a new International Sustainability Standards Board. What does this news mean to you and the work you do?

Setting common ESG reporting standards and frameworks will help to draw insightful comparisons between company reports and provide useful information to investors, regulators, and other ESG stakeholders. This will help to enhance disclosure quality and operational efficiency. The focus will be placed on mandatory key performance indicators to be scientifically measured and disclosed, and with these being standardized, I look forward to increased alignment and continued growth in the ESG space.

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