Environmental accounting is a branch of accounting that deals with issues
of environmental costs. These accountants identify, measure and report on
environmental costs. For instance, if a company has to build a new smokestack
in order to comply with anti-pollution guidelines, an environmental accountant
may be called in.
Environmental auditors do much of the same, often working very closely
with an in-house accountant.
Steve Chase is an environmental consultant in Dallas. He says his profession
is becoming one of the "must know" aspects of accounting. "It used to be you
didn't have to know about employee benefit plans. Now, you have to know that.
The environment is like that," he explains.
Environmental accounting is a relatively new field. Only in recent years
have guidelines been established for measuring, reporting and managing current
and future environmental costs and opportunities.
Environmental accountants also help develop proper environmental management
systems for companies. For example, "due diligence" is a term used to describe
the precautions company officials must take to prevent disasters (financial
or otherwise). Environmental accountants help officials ensure that due diligence
is taken on environmental issues.
In some cases, if due diligence is not shown, company officials may end
up in jail for causing harm to the environment. In this way, environmental
accountants may be called environmental management consultants, since they
do more than just accounting.
"We try to help a company integrate the management of environmental issues
into existing management systems," said environmental accountant Anne Davis.
Another area in which environmental accountants may work is in environmental
priorities assessment. "Many companies feel that the environmental issues
are so enormous, they don't know where to start. I help them develop a plan,"
said Rob Abbott. He is the director of environmental consulting services for
an accounting firm.
Environmental accountants usually work as part of a team with lawyers and
There are several reasons why companies would want to pay attention to
the environment. First, they're required to do so by environmental laws.
Second, they may be able to lower their expenses by reducing power consumption
and waste -- especially hazardous waste, which is expensive to dispose. Third,
they may earn more profits by marketing environmentally friendly products,
especially for companies that export to Europe.
Environmental accountants work in private industry as well as public sector
agencies. Nicole Deveaux works for a government hydro corporation. She analyzes
environmental expenditures and is developing a system for reporting the financial
section of the company's environmental report.
Environmental accountants maintain regular office hours. But conducting
environmental audits and reading through complicated engineering reports can
require some evening and weekend work.
There are no special physical requirements for environmental accountants.