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Environmental Accountant

What They Do

Insider Info

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 scientists.

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.

At a Glance

Balance money and the environment

  • Public pressure is leading to tighter environmental laws
  • Competition is tough for jobs
  • Science and business education coupled with certification are required


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