A Course Module on Incorporating Environmental and Social Costs into Traditional Business Accounting Systems
Noellette Conway-Schempf, Ph.D. Carnegie Mellon University Pittsburgh, PA 15213
This module describes methods for incorporating environmental information into accounting management information systems to allow financial decision makers toinclude environmental criteria in their decisions. The module is subdivided to permit a progression of detail concerning accounting systems and their role in encouraging the design and development, marketing, and use of more environmentally-conscious products, services, and manufacturing processes.
The module is suitable for use as part of an engineering or business environmental management course,at either the undergraduate or graduate level, through the selection of various components of the module. Thus for example, in an MBA course, the early material on types of accounting systems would be unnecessary, or in an engineering environmental management course, more emphasis could be placed on the managerial/cost accounting section than on the national accounting section.
The module issubdivided as follows: 1) Introduction
What is accounting? Relevance of accounting and capital budgeting to environmental management and engineering issues
Types of accounting systems Shortcomings of accounting systems as environmental information systems Full cost accounting
2) Incorporating social and environmental costs into accounting systems: National accountsFinancial accounts
Cost accounting systems and capital budgeting
3) Valuing the environment
4) The ultimate goal – full cost pricing
5) Difficulties associated with full cost accounting
6) Additional teaching resources available Case studies Readings
Appendix 1: Example short class projects and assignments Appendix 2: Case study of environmental cost accounting forscrap at an automobile manufacturing facility- Instructor’s version and student version. Appendix 3: Example of a pollution prevention investment analysis
1.1 What is accounting? Accounting is the collection and aggregation of information for decision makers - including managers, investors, regulators, lenders, and the public. Accounting systems affect behavior andmanagement and have affects across departments, organizations, and even countries. Information contained within an accounting system has the power to influence actions. Accounting information systems are particularly strong behavioral drivers within the context of a corporation - where profits and the bottom line are daily concerns. In order for environmental concerns to be important criteria in everydaybusiness management decisions, they need to be encapsulated within the accounting systems of the organization.
In this educational module we will discuss efforts to include environmental and other social information into accounting systems. We provide an overview of the three main types of accounting systems used by developed nations and discuss their shortcomings in terms of environmentalinformation content. Although we will discuss the three types of systems, we will focus the bulk of the discussion on managerial or cost accounting systems - the day to day accounting information systems used by decision makers in enterprises. Example overheads for lectures are included in Appendix I.
Relevance of accounting and capital budgeting to environmental
management andengineering design issues
Accounting systems inform and motivate behavior, thus any information included therein has the potential to influence behavior. Including environmental information in accounting systems is a prerequisite to linking sound environmental management and the principles of sustainable development with everyday business and personal decisions.
Historically, the environmental...