Life at Deloitte

Career Journey: Steven Ward

A researcher brings the scientific method to climate disclosures 

Change can happen at the nexus of policy, finance, and science. At Deloitte, we have the opportunity to be involved in such change.

—Steven Ward, Audit & Assurance managing director, Deloitte & Touche LLP

Evolving the audit

Steven Ward isn’t an accountant. He’s a scientist. And that makes him beneficial to Deloitte’s Audit & Assurance (A&A) business.

As more companies began reporting on their environmental, social, and governance (ESG) performance in the last decade, an opportunity emerged for accounting professionals to expand their skill sets. As a result, Deloitte engagement teams working on ESG projects often include professionals from a variety of academic backgrounds such as chemistry, geography, soil science, or environmental science working alongside their peers with backgrounds in accounting. In addition, some of Deloitte’s A&A professionals have backgrounds in agriculture, insurance, defense and intelligence, oil and gas, coastal restoration, water resources, endangered species management, and more that provide diverse experiences and knowledge that help to set Deloitte apart.

Steven has experience in all these areas. “I’ve traveled a long and winding road to get here,” he observes. Steven joined Deloitte from a large national laboratory, where he led an applied research team doing work related to national security, climate change, and food security. Steven eventually realized though that science alone likely wasn’t enough to move the needle on ESG issues. “Change can happen at the nexus of policy, finance, and science,” he says. “At Deloitte, we have the opportunity to be involved in such change.”

Demystifying the science

Steven is able to explain the science and advise clients on waypoints for their organization’s ESG journey, applying effective data and methods to the ESG services Deloitte provides and educating clients on the role science can play in the ESG space. So what is that role?

“Simple,” Steven says. “It’s quality. The ESG services that we provide are rooted in science. The goal is provide the necessary education and insights to our clients, enabling them to bring the same level of quality to climate reporting and disclosures as their financial statements. An auditor and a scientist aren’t so different—both emphasize transparency, objectivity, integrity, and rigor in their approach.”

That discipline can help make sense of an issue that can be hard to isolate, from social vulnerability to the impacts on the biological, physical, and built environments. To Steven, “the problem we face with climate change is woven throughout the fabric of who we are as humans and how we interact with the world around us.” Against this backdrop, data is important in telling an organization’s ESG story.

Data can also debunk common misconceptions about climate change more broadly. “One notion I hear frequently is that there are going to be more hurricanes in the future. But the data suggests that storms will be more stochastic and increase in intensity, not that there will be more storms.” The distinction is important because it affects how we and society prepare, Steven says.


The problem we face with climate change is woven throughout the fabric of who we are as humans and how we interact with the world around us.

The toolbox of the future

The ability to model climate change impacts continues to improve. “We’re now able to work with data sets at sizes we were never able to deal with before, to run computations and models at scales and speeds that we were not previously able to execute.” According to Steven, as scientists execute more studies, they remove “one more layer of the onion, and possibly uncover one more skill set that we might need.”

Some of those skills are related to technology. Steven and his colleagues use Deloitte Omnia’s ESG capabilities to identify ways to close data automation gaps between clients’ existing IT systems. In addition to financial data, Deloitte’s A&A engagement teams can integrate and analyze new data sets, such as satellite imagery, synthetic aperture radar, soil data, and different water or hydrologic models.

Still, he doesn’t expect climate disclosure to remain a niche competency dominated by scientists. Instead, it will likely become a routine part of the annual audit, and every new auditor could be expected to have the necessary knowledge base to execute. “University faculty are beginning to recognize that, and they're coming to Deloitte asking what shifts may need to be made in the curriculum to help prepare their students,” Steven said. “Statistics, data modeling, and data visualization are among the skills that will likely become more sought after.”

Paying it forward

Consistent with his professional interest in the natural world, Steven spends time in the outdoors with his daughters—often with a niece or nephew in tow. “I've lived all over the world,” he says, “but south Louisiana is my home, and its marshes, wetlands, and swamps are my happy place.” Helping the next generation is a rewarding aspect of his career, Steven says. He gives talks to student groups across the country and mentors professionals at Deloitte so he can continue to promote change.

Deloitte's purpose

At Deloitte, professionals like Steven make an impact that matters every day for our clients, our people, and in our communities. We are creating trust and confidence in a more equitable society. Our purpose is synonymous with how we work and it defines who we are. We focus our collective efforts on advancing sustainability, equality, and trust that comes to life through our core commitments.

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Deloitte’s ESG capabilities

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