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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Green Business: Measurement and Cost Accounting Tools

Resources to help businesses get started on the sustainability path.

Environmental Cost Accounting

Environmental Management Accounting (EMA) is the identification, collection, estimation, analysis, internal reporting, and use of materials and energy flow information, environmental cost information, and other cost information for both conventional and environmental decision-making within an organization.

For companies that have the goals of saving money, especially environmental costs, and reducing environmental impacts, EMA provides essential information for meeting those goals.

Key points to note are:

  • EMA focuses on costs internal to the company. EMA does not include external costs to individuals, society, or the environment for which a company is not legally held responsible.
  • EMA places particular emphasis on accounting for environmental costs.
  • EMA also encompasses explicit information on physical flows and fates of materials and energy.
  • EMA information can be used for most types of management activity or decision-making within an organization, but is particularly useful for proactive environmental management activities.

EMA is not merely one environmental management tool among many - rather, EMA is a broad set of principles and approaches that provides the materials/energy flow and cost data critical to the success of many environmental management activities. Terms or tools such as full cost accounting, total cost assessment, cost accounting, materials accounting, life cycle assessment, life cycle costing, and activity based costing are associated with EMA.

Source: "Environmental Management Accounting: Background and Overview." in Environmental Management Accounting Topic Hub. Boston, MA : Northeast Waste Management Officials' Association (NEWMOA), 2012. Online.

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Calculators and Software Tools