How green is my company?

The environmentally friendly accountant is here to stay

The growth in interest in corporate environmental accountability seems to parallel the interest that has been shown in corporate governance. Largely unknown at the beginning of the decade, voluntary corporate environmental reporting has progressed considerably in a short space of time to the point where, according to a recent KPMG international survey, three out of four large companies mention environmental issues in the annual report to shareholders, and one in four now issues a separate environmental performance report.

In addition, since the end of April, some 800 companies in Europe have registered under the EC Eco Management and Audit Scheme, or Emas.

The Association of Certified and Corporate Accountants (Acca) has its own Environmental Award scheme, which began in 1991 with the purpose of identifying and rewarding innovative examples of corporate environmental reporting. The success of the UK awards and the growing international recognition of the importance of environmental reporting culminated, in 1996, with Acca and the equivalent bodies in the Netherlands and Denmark, Royal Nivra and the FSR agreeing to join forces on a European award scheme.

In the UK, Denmark and the Netherlands, the number of companies entering for their countries' awards has steadily increased. Similar schemes now operate in Canada, South Africa and New Zealand. It is hoped that schemes in Sweden and Norway will be drawn into the joint European award by next year.

If not yet completely come of age, then environmental reporting is surely well and truly into its adolescence.

Most organisations make an impact on the environment and it is important that they should be trying to assess and reduce that impact, and move away from unsustainability. The accountancy profession can and should try to help.

Environmental compliance is expensive and many companies may see only the costs and not the many financial benefits which flow from being a good environmental citizen.

Those benefits include, but are not limited to, recycling revenues, reduced costs through waste reduction, avoided penalties and taxes (such as the UK landfill tax), enhanced profits through eco-efficiency achievements, new revenue streams through access to new markets, reduced insurance costs and lower borrowing costs.

Financial accountants are well qualified to help companies begin to quantify and report the financial consequences of improved environmental performance. The financial auditing profession is ideally placed to assist in the development of the environmental auditing and verification methodologies which will enhance the level of assurance which users can draw from audited environmental statements.

I think it is significant that it is the accountancy profession in Europe and North America which has led the way in encouraging and developing the practice of corporate environmental reporting.

Acca, Royal Nivra and the FSR have each been active, both on their own account and collectively through the Environmental Task Force of the European Federation of Accountants (FEE), in raising the environmental awareness of accountants.

As far as my association is concerned, however, presenting awards for good practice is only part of our work to further the environmental cause. Acca has just published "A Guide to Environment and Energy Reporting". The publication is a review of current best practice, and is an essential reference text for those approaching environmental reporting and accounting for the first time.

In addition to our research into environmental issues, we are also planning to green the Acca syllabus to make sure that environmental issues play a significant part in the education and training of all Chartered Certified Accountants. Acca is also looking at the area of social and ethical reporting, accounting and auditing.

Corporate governance is a broad canvas which is only partly coloured in at present. With the report of the Cadbury Committee, the accountancy profession in the UK has contributed significantly to the development of a framework for reporting on the financial aspects of corporate governance. The accountancy profession has also been influential in the development of environmental reporting techniques.

Social and ethical issues represent the third element of what John Elkington calls the "triple bottom line" - an overall corporate accountability that is expressed in financial, environmental and social terms.

Working with the newly established Institute for Social and Ethical AccountAbility, Acca hopes to develop a new guidance framework on social and ethical accounting, auditing and reporting - a framework which will complete the corporate governance canvas and which will be highly relevant, both for the new millennium and to the drive towards sustainability in its broadest sensen

Roger Adams is Acca's technical and research head.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Guru Careers: Graduate Print Producer / Account Executive

£18 - 25k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Graduate Print Producer / Account Execut...

Ashdown Group: Graduate Digital Marketing Assistant - Wimbledon

£18000 - £19000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Graduate Digital Marketin...

Guru Careers: Financial Controller

£45 - £55k DOE: Guru Careers: A Financial Controller is required to join a suc...

Guru Careers: Product Manager / Product Marketing Manager / Product Owner

COMPETITIVE: Guru Careers: A Product Manager / Product Owner is required to jo...

Day In a Page

Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... for the fourth time

Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... again

I was once told that intelligence services declare their enemies dead to provoke them into popping up their heads and revealing their location, says Robert Fisk
Margaret Attwood on climate change: 'Time is running out for our fragile, Goldilocks planet'

Margaret Attwood on climate change

The author looks back on what she wrote about oil in 2009, and reflects on how the conversation has changed in a mere six years
New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered: What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week

New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered

What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week
Oculus Rift and the lonely cartoon hedgehog who could become the first ever virtual reality movie star

The cartoon hedgehog leading the way into a whole new reality

Virtual reality is the 'next chapter' of entertainment. Tim Walker gives it a try
Ants have unique ability to switch between individual and collective action, says study

Secrets of ants' teamwork revealed

The insects have an almost unique ability to switch between individual and collective action
Donovan interview: The singer is releasing a greatest hits album to mark his 50th year in folk

Donovan marks his 50th year in folk

The singer tells Nick Duerden about receiving death threats, why the world is 'mentally ill', and how he can write a song about anything, from ecology to crumpets
Let's Race simulator: Ultra-realistic technology recreates thrill of the Formula One circuit

Simulator recreates thrill of F1 circuit

Rory Buckeridge gets behind the wheel and explains how it works
Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation' over plans to overhaul reverse-chronological timeline

Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation'

Facebook exasperates its users by deciding which posts they can and can’t see. So why has Twitter announced plans to do the same?
Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag - but what else could the fashion house call it?

Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag

The star was shocked by a Peta investigation into the exotic skins trade
10 best waterproof mascaras

Whatever the weather: 10 best waterproof mascaras

We found lash-enhancing beauties that won’t budge no matter what you throw at them
Diego Costa biography: Chelsea striker's route to the top - from those who shared his journey

Diego Costa: I go to war. You come with me...

Chelsea's rampaging striker had to fight his way from a poor city in Brazil to life at the top of the Premier League. A new book speaks to those who shared his journey
Ashes 2015: England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

The biggest problem facing them in Birmingham was the recovery of the zeitgeist that drained so quickly under the weight of Australian runs at Lord's, says Kevin Garside
Women's Open 2015: Charley Hull - 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

Charley Hull: 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

British teen keeps her feet on ground ahead of Women's Open
Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkish President Erdogan could benefit politically from the targeting of the PKK, says Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: Our choice is years of Tory rule under Jeremy Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Our choice is years of Tory rule under Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Yvette Cooper urged Labour members to 'get serious' about the next general election rather than become 'a protest movement'