What does an Environmental Accountant do?

D. Jeffress

An environmental accountant is a certified accounting expert who helps his or her company make smart decisions on ecological matters. An accountant assesses current standards and practices regarding pollution output, industrial development, and environmental management. He or she determines the best ways to lower both the environmental impact and the operating costs of a business, encouraging more resourceful, cleaner practices. Most environmental accountants are employed full-time by large corporations, manufacturing plants, and oil and gas refineries, though some professionals work for government agencies and consulting firms.

Environmental accountants analyze financial data relating to pollution.
Environmental accountants analyze financial data relating to pollution.

One of the primary goals of an environmental accountant is to accurately analyze and report financial figures relating to pollution control and environmental protection policies. He or she helps determine how much it costs the company to conform to industry codes, and whether or not money could be saved by making changes to production techniques. Most environmental accountants are able to see beyond financial concerns; they understand the importance of sustainability from both a corporate and a general perspective. They can help their companies stay profitable while making a conscious effort to improve the environment.

An environmental accountant determines the business costs required to conform to industry codes.
An environmental accountant determines the business costs required to conform to industry codes.

An environmental accountant typically works closely with management and company executives to explain the importance of developing more environmentally-friendly production guidelines. The accountant creates detailed reports, charts, and presentations that describe the current state of affairs and often offers predictions about future impacts, both financial and ecological. He or she tries to convince executives that, although investing in green technology or alternative fuel systems may be expensive in the short run, making the conversion will pay off tremendously over time. The accountant may cite changing government standards and the general public's support of cleaner industry to help convince bosses to make large-scale changes.

When company owners do decide to initiate policy changes, the environmental accountant aids in the financial planning and budgeting of projects. He or she estimates costs for different elements of a project and allocates funds accordingly. Once a new system is in place, the accountant regularly assesses the profitability of the improvements made.

In most countries, a person who wants to become an environmental accountant needs to obtain at least a bachelor's degree in accounting and pass a national certification exam. Most environmental accountants begin their careers in general accounting positions within companies and consulting firms, and eventually move into the specialty as they gain experience and prove their abilities. As companies increase their awareness of ecological issues and stricter government regulations are put into place, opportunities for environmental accountants continue to grow.

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