Use your accounting knowledge to help protect the planet

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Accounting is a more varied and complex field than first appearances may indicate. Those who think of accountancy as pure number-crunching and tax work may be surprised to find there are unique ways for professional accountants to contribute to fields such as environmental preservation. Organizations working to protect the earth and reduce human impact on the environment need individuals with accounting skills on their teams, opening up unique and fascinating career paths for individuals with financial skill and a desire to promote positive change.

A globe sits in a field of grass

Recent years have seen companies think more closely about how their activities affect the natural environment. Whether the organizations are driven by core values, seeking tax benefits, or pursuing a more positive public image, their efforts have added up to a climate of increased social responsibility. This change of focus has opened new avenues for social and environmental reporting in accounting, potentially creating opportunities for individuals who specialize in finance and conservation.

The industry outlook for environmental accountants

Companies of all kinds are discovering the benefits of environmental management accounting. Robert Half notes that public sector agencies and private corporations have openings for financial professionals whose key subject matter expertise concerns earth-friendly initiatives and policies. These individuals tend to have formal education in accounting, possessing a degree such as a Master of Accounting (MAc) alongside expertise in environmental law.

Accountants specializing in environmental initiatives can help organizations incorporate conservation into their purchase plans or discover advantageous tax exemptions to pursue. When performing audits or analysis of their companies’ financial performance, these individuals can work regulatory compliance into their calculations, protecting the businesses from potential fines and unlocking savings opportunities while helping the planet.

Monster.com explains that despite the close ties between environmental initiatives and partisan politics, the demand for conservation-minded accountants may have reached a period of growth that will endure any swings in leadership and policy. The change that has occurred in recent years is the result of realizations within boardrooms that promoting environmentally friendly policies helps corporations preserve their own bottom lines. Companies can now integrate positive social change into standard, profit-forward accounting strategies.

Key skills for environmental accountants

The role of accountants in environmental management accounting is varied and covers a number of skills and abilities. Individuals who master these areas of expertise may prove helpful to today’s organizations as they navigate the ever-changing landscape of earth-friendly laws and tax policies. Just as there are numerous specialties in the accounting field in general, a well-balanced environmental accounting team in an organization will be able to take on earth-friendly initiatives from multiple angles, with each role calling for its own set of skills.

Monster.com notes that the basic duties of environmental accountants can be broken down into three groups based on the scope of their work and outlook:

Environmental management accountants are responsible for working on data collection and analysis. These individuals must be able to turn streams of varied information into clear insights that describe the environmental impact of the organization, as well as the potential for improvement and cost-benefit analysis of earth-friendly alternative operations.

Environmental financial accountants are the team members tasked with taking the company’s internal findings to a wider audience. These professionals use the data collected by the management accountants to convince groups such as investors, and regulatory bodies that the organization’s strategy is sound. Compliance matters and the overall perception of conservation efforts are in these accountants’ hands.

Environmental national accountants are concerned with more than one corporation’s conservation efforts. These are the individuals who inspect the whole scope of conservation law. The overall policies on responsible resource use, tax credits, and limitations on pollution depend upon input from environmental national accountants.

According to the Environmental Protection Administration, companies seeking to work environmental cost calculations into their budgeting should actively promote teamwork between accountants and other individuals such as chemists, production managers, purchasing officers, designers, and more. To function within these new cross-departmental groups, environmental accountants should be skilled at communicating their findings and collaborating with their coworkers. Accounting as a whole is a more team-based profession than outsiders may assume, which makes collaboration a fundamental accounting skill.

Online MAc programs as a gateway to environmental accounting

When individuals want to pursue specialized types of accounting such as environmental oversight, they will likely find prospective employers are looking for a mixture of financial knowledge and more specific subject matter expertise. An online MAc program can assist professionals in building and deepening accounting skills.

Some individuals who already have experience in environmental law may find it beneficial to study for a MAc online while serving in a full-time position. In other cases, the online accounting education may be the first step toward an environmental accounting role, with the professional seeking a nonspecialized accounting role and taking on a conservation focus while on the job. Monster.com notes that many companies don’t hire specifically for environmental roles, making the latter path a potential way to specialize if professionals seek to work with such organizations.

The online Master of Accounting program from the Collat School of Business at the University of Alabama at Birmingham provides a quick and effective way to gain up-to-date and relevant financial knowledge. Students can work with faculty members whose industry connections keep them in touch with modern accounting practices. These professors may build their students’ professional networks while deepening their accounting acumen. This knowledge may be helpful as aspiring environmental accountants seek new roles.

Recommended Readings:

Master of Accounting online vs. on-campus learning

Accounting for small business and startups: issues and advice

Sources:

Environmental Protection Agency – An Introduction to Environmental Accounting As A Business Management Tool: Key Concepts And Terms

Robert Half – Look At What You Can Do With an Accounting Degree

Monster.com – Environmental Accountants Do It for the Green

Investopedia – A Look At Accounting Careers