Carbon accounting and the construction of competence
Ascui, F and Lovell, HC, Carbon accounting and the construction of competence, Journal of Cleaner Production, 36 pp. 48-59. ISSN 0959-6526 (2012) [Refereed Article]
Copyright 2012 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Carbon accounting has evolved rapidly over the past twenty years and now encompasses a wide range of activities with significant financial implications. This paper examines how competence in carbon accounting is being defined and claimed by different actors and communities. Specifically, it focuses on the role of the accountancy profession in carbon accounting, charting its engagement over time and its relationship with other communities involved in carbon accounting. The paper builds on recent work showing that multiple framings and activities are associated with carbon accounting, leading to conflicting views on what it means, how it should be done, and who should be involved. It draws on the concepts of epistemic communities and boundary-work to help explain the role of professions and the emergence of new institutions that mediate between different communities to achieve policy change. We find that, while accountants have undisputed authority in the field of financial reporting of rights and liabilities created under emissions trading schemes ('financial carbon accounting'), their claims to competence in other aspects of organisational carbon accounting overlap with those made by several other communities. Although the accountancy profession's interest in organisational carbon accounting can be traced back at least as far as 2001, the introduction of emissions trading in Europe in 2005 coincided with the start of a new, as yet largely un-scrutinised, initiative to extend its claims of relevant expertise, through a variety of methods including the promotion of standards for disclosure of physical and strategic climate-related information. The Climate Disclosure Standards Board provides an example of a boundary organisation that has been established by different communities with an interest in carbon accounting, with mutually beneficial results, which has nevertheless resulted in the production of a new Climate Change Reporting Framework that is heavily aligned towards the existing competence of accountancy professionals. © 2012 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
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