Schools Training

Accounting Training – Measuring Environmental Impact in Dollars and Cents

29 JUN 2012
Career Path : Accounting

Today’s graduates of accounting training must be prepared to practice in an emerging area of the field: sustainability accounting. Increasingly, companies and governments need to prove to their customers, shareholders and citizens that they are reducing their carbon footprint and that they are meeting the new triple bottom line of people, planet and profit. But how exactly does one go about measuring one’s reduced environmental impact? As more and more business colleges are discovering, an integrated approach, combining an understanding of social and environmental issues with traditional accounting practices, has shown a lot of promise.


Other names for this kind of accounting training, which has been emerging over the past two decades, include:


-       social and environmental accounting

-       non-financial reporting

-       corporate social reporting

-       social accounting


What kind of work can graduates of business colleges who specialize in this niche expect to undertake over the course of their careers?


  1. Performing social and environmental responsibility audits – Graduates of business colleges who receive this kind of accounting training are able to prepare reports on organizations’ social responsibility initiatives. The financial component of this kind of reporting may include measuring energy used and assessing employee salary and benefits plans for equity and fairness.
  2. Accounting for carbon – Europe, California and Quebec all have carbon markets. Leaders from accounting schools and business colleges around the world are still trying to agree on how to account for carbon. In the future, accounting training may include a new subset: carbon accounting. In the meantime, governments, big emitters and accounting professionals need to work together to determine the price of carbon. The sooner we put a price tag on emissions, the sooner corporations will be motivated to further reduce their own emissions.
  3. Life cycle accounting  – Graduates of business colleges are sometimes involved in the preparation of cradle-to-grave life cycle assessments of the environmental impact of a product or service. These assessments sometimes use economic metrics to explain the environmental cost of a product.


Sustainability accounting is likely to gain in importance as a business management tool. According to the recent report, “The Future of Sustainability Reporting,” graduates of accounting training who practice in this field help organizations:


-       make better decisions regarding financial risk

-       foster better relations with shareholders and employees

-       innovate by developing more responsible products and services


The same report points out that there are still concerns about the accuracy of sustainability reporting – concerns that the students currently enrolled in accounting training in business colleges may need to face, as they take sustainability accounting to its next stage.


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