In 2005 a guidance document on Environmental Management Accounting, EMA, was developed for IFAC, the International Federation of Accountants in New York. It is based on a publication on principles and procedures for EMA, which was written for the United Nations Division for Sustainable Development, UN DSD. Both documents were funded within the research framework of the Factory of Tomorrow.
In the last years both documents have been applied in several case studies, with the focus of developing internal procedures and standards for data collection and disclosure. They have produced recommendations for a further harmonisation of definitions and requirements for data collection and reporting.
According to the definition of UN DSD, two types of information are considered under EMA: physical and monetary information. Physical information includes data on the use, flows and final destiny of energy, water, materials and wastes. EMA places a particular emphasis on physical information because (1) the use of energy, water and materials, as well as the generation of waste and emissions, are directly related to many of the environmental impacts of organizational operations and (2) materials purchase costs are a major cost driver in many organizations. Monetary information can include various types of environment-related costs, including materials-driven costs, environmental protection expenditures and others.
Following a request of the statistical division of UN DSD within the current project a review of definitions and reporting requirements of documents provided by the statistical division of UN DSD and Eurostat was performed. The aim was to improve consistency of data requirements with the structure of financial accounting systems as well as with the definitions in the IFAC and GRI guidance documents. This will significantly support the design of harmonised corporate information systems and help provide consistent and comparable data on a micro and macro level.
The core part of this paper is a comparison of definitions and disclosure requirements for environmental accounting on a national and corporate level, which results in recommendations to statistical agencies, which are collecting this data worldwide. This was achieved via participation of the author in the revision process of the London Group on Environmental Accounting which has accepted the request by the UN Committee of Experts on Environmental-Economic Accounting to take a leading role in the revision of the SEEA-2003, the worldwide handbook of national environmental-economic accounting (UN SEEA 2003).
The main differences between the SEEA and IFAC approach are the definition of material inputs regarding the mass balance and the sole purpose criterion for environmental protection regarding the definition of environmental costs. Material inputs relate to the industry NACE codes in SEEA, while they are divided into raw-, auxiliary and operating materials in IFAC. The concept of “additionality of environmental protection” is in direct conflict with the merits of integrated cleaner production and has in effect resulted in a decline of environmental expenditure, while companies at the same time are increasingly installing environmental management systems. Several other differences have been are highlighted in this project and summarized in an issues paper as part of the SEEA revision process.
The recommendations have also been discussed with Eurostat, ISI, the International Statistical ‚Institute, current related research projects, Statistik Austria and the Austrian Chamber of Commerce, in order to ensure ongoing awareness and concern about the issues raised also after the project has ended.
Improved and harmonised data quality is essential for corporations as well as for aggregated statistical analysis, as they provide the ground for several decisions, from investment choices to scientific projects and political instruments and allow better benchmarking. In addition, the time needed for data assessments and aggregations can be reduced significantly, as well for corporations as for statistical agencies. The better harmonization of definitions and data requirements for disclosure regarding environmental management accounting is therefore in the core interest of organizations as well as statistical agencies and will increase acceptance of the data collected.
Univ.-Doz. Mag. Dr. Christine Jasch
Institut für Ökologische Wirtschaftsforschung