Accounting firms leading green change

AccountingWEB 2009 Scholarship award-winning essay
By Molly Klusek, The University of Scranton

Environmental responsibility is a prevailing issue among businesses in the modem age. With growing media scrutiny and investor expectations, in addition to deteriorating environmental conditions, it is necessary that corporations formulate methods of promoting green causes for the coming years. Regarding sustainability, companies must recognize that their actions impact the environment in the short- and long-term.

Traditionally, accounting firms have been viewed as the watchdog figure among businesses, and thus should set an example by demonstrating environmentally friendly stances. Within accounting firms, green initiatives require much attention. Firms should incorporate programs focused on eliminating paper use and saving energy into workplaces, and should establish broader goals to integrate the green initiative into the core accounting practice of protecting stakeholders.

One significant challenge that many accounting firms confront is the transition to a "paperless office." Considering that the average American worker uses an estimated 10,000, sheets each year(1), reducing paper use can greatly lessen the environmental impact. The introduction of paperless audit automation systems, which function by storing data electronically within an on-screen framework, have been useful in eliminating print-outs. Firms have increasingly been adopting such practices, not only allowing for greater efficiency, but also reduced paper consumption.

While digitalizing files will help to eliminate paper usage, it may however add to electricity use by necessitating more computer storage units. Thus, many corporations pursue energy-saving corporate site renovations, such as turning off unused electronics, swapping incandescent for fluorescent bulbs, or employing Energy Star-designated appliances (recognized by the Environmental Protection Agency as energy efficient).

Efforts to improve energy efficiency are crucial today because excessive reliance is placed on non-renewable carbon based fuels, including coal, oil, and gas. These resources result in greenhouse gas emissions that increase global warming and, moreover, are quickly being depleted. Whereas Energy Star helped to prevent 40 million metric tons of carbon emissions in 2007(2), the United States was still the leading global consumer of oil at 23.9 percent for that year(3). Therefore, energy usage should be measured and improved upon, with increased research and promotion of renewable-energy technologies.

By involving and informing employees about green efforts, through conventions, information sessions, or events, accounting firms will benefit. This will increase morale and ensure that awareness is built ITom within the firm itself, in order that initiatives may then be spread outside, to other firms. It is important that green policies be incorporated into organizational culture at every level and that goals are developed in order to achieve a high level of environmental responsibility.

In addition to going green internally, accounting firms should encourage environmental responsibility of other companies. Tbe basic duty of an accountant is to serve the general public by ensuring that financial statements are fairly and accurately reported. Aligned with this mission, accounting firms might evaluate the environmental attitude of audited firms and then issue relevant information concerning environmental liabilities to stakeholders. Through implementation of green initiatives at all levels, accounting firms will establish themselves as leaders of green change.

Works Cited
1. CFO Staff. "Seeing Green." CFO Magazine 1 Jan. 2009.
2. "ENERGY STAR OVERVIEW OF 2007 ACHIEVEMENTS." Home: ENERGY STAR.
3. Hillary, Michael T. "Reducing Paper Use Saves Money ... and Maybe Even the Planet." InterBusiness Issues Mar. 2009.

About the author
Molly Klusek is from Philadelphia, PA. She initially became interested in the field of business through a course at Temple University that she completed as a senior in high school, called the Business Leadership Academy. The course consisted of a microeconomics class and a group project involving the creation of a business plan. Later, she became attracted to accounting through the advice of her family and teachers. She has always enjoyed mathematics and possesses a knack for paying great attention to detail. In fact, her mother, to this day, tells the anecdote of how, as a young child, Molly would line her toys up in perfectly straight lines, perhaps in a similar manner to the posting of journal entries in a general ledger.

Currently, Molly am enrolled in the University of Scranton’s five-year MBA Program. She will graduate in May 2010 with both a Bachelor of Science degree in accounting and a Master of Business Administration degree.

After completing the graduate program at the University of Scranton with her B.S./M.B.A. degree, Molly hopes to work in the area of auditing at a Big Four firm for several years. Within five years, she intends to take the CPA exam and become a certified public accountant. She hopes to later apply to the FBI because it has always been an interest of hers to work in the area of forensics or fraud investigation, and she believes that it would be a demanding, yet exciting experience.
 

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