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Composite image of a student and academic with the Earth

Social and environmental reporting in accounting

How do we calculate the cost to Earth?
UQ people
Published 31 Jul, 2020  ·  3-minute read

Accountancy is no longer the narrowly defined occupation of past eras. We're only just starting to discover the benefits of environmental accounting. Be prepared to blow your friends’ minds with the power and scope of modern-day accounting.

Watch How do we calculate the cost to the Earth? on YouTube.


The concept of environmental accounting

It used to be that the cost of an object was established by calculating the materials needed, plus labour and any other expenses incurred during production. But now, in a more environmentally conscious society, our notions of what constitutes ‘cost’ are undergoing dramatic shifts.

“Historically, accounting has been about number crunching, calculating profits and recording transactions,” says Associate Lecturer Debbie Jeffery from UQ’s Business School.

“However, we’re no longer just asking how much it is to produce a t-shirt. We’re also asking how much water it takes to dye it and how much waste is created in making it. At the core of it, we’re still dealing with numbers, but rather than just thinking about the economics – which we understand very well – we’re zeroing in on the cost to the environment and the community."

“We know our graduates will be able to help businesses manage, in advance, their impact on the environment and identify ways they can help their community.”

The shift from pure economics to environmental accountability is beginning to permeate every level of the corporate world. The desire to conduct social and environmental reporting in accounting is spreading fast.

No longer is it just a philosophy, but it’s now a more tangible skill that acknowledges the planet’s finite amount of natural resources and readies corporations for legislation that may be imposed to encourage more sustainable practices.

Environmental accountants can change the world for the better

“Money, to a certain extent, still makes the world go around, but future accountants will help shape and save the planet,” says Debbie.

“Companies who are usually beholden to stakeholders will turn to a younger generation of socially and environmentally aware accountants who say, ‘Sure, money is all well and good, but what else are we doing for the environment?’."

Debbie Jeffery

“It’s a role that will be of significant economic and environmental value. We are working with students to provide them with the skills they’ll need as graduates to develop key performance indicators (KPIs) – referring to environmental KPIs – that they can establish in their workplace.”

High employability rates for UQ Business School graduates show that employers value the forward-thinking mindset of those who come prepared for conducting business in the mid-21st century.

One student attracted to UQ was Dhruv Goel, now Vice-President of Corporate Relations for the UQ Business Association.

“You look around and see the world is changing. So, it’s only right that our skills as accountants meet those changes,” says Dhruv.

“There’s been a real shift that runs through entire corporate structures. To even use the title of ‘accountant’ feels a little limited. We’re also practitioners in leadership, empathy and creativity.”

And he should know, having studied at a university that has ‘walked the walk’ on sustainability. Having recently constructed a solar farm at Warwick on the Darling Downs that has contributed significantly to the local economy, UQ is set to be the first major university in the world to offset 100% of its electricity usage from its renewable energy assets.

Do your bit to help make the world a better place with a Bachelor of Commerce at UQ.

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