Online from: 1988
Subject Area: Accounting and Finance
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|Title:||Carbon accounting: Negotiating accuracy, consistency and certainty across organisational fields|
|Author(s):||Frances Bowen, (School of Business and Management, Queen Mary, University of London, London, UK), Bettina Wittneben, (Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK)|
|Citation:||Frances Bowen, Bettina Wittneben, (2011) "Carbon accounting: Negotiating accuracy, consistency and certainty across organisational fields", Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, Vol. 24 Iss: 8, pp.1022 - 1036|
|Keywords:||Accuracy, Carbon accounting, Consistency, Measurement, Organizational fields|
|Article type:||Research paper|
|DOI:||10.1108/09513571111184742 (Permanent URL)|
|Publisher:||Emerald Group Publishing Limited|
|Acknowledgements:||This paper is based on discussions at a workshop on Accounting for Carbon hosted by the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment at the University of Oxford in November 2009. The authors would like to acknowledge financial and administrative support received from the Smith School, both for the workshop and through the academic visitors program. The workshop was partly funded by IRIS (International Resource Industries and Sustainability Centre) at the University of Calgary (SSHRC Grant No. 603-2007-0010). Particular thanks go to the co-organiser of the workshop, Dr Chuks Okereke, for his assistance in developing the conceptual framework for the workshop, to Owen Owens and Dr Adam Bumpus for research assistance, and to workshop participants who shared their insights during the day.|
Purpose – A fully functioning carbon accounting system must be based on measurement that is materially accurate, consistent over space and time, and incorporates data uncertainty. However, achieving these goals is difficult because current carbon accounting efforts are spread across three distinct organisational fields, each prioritising different goals. This paper aims to address these issues.
Design/methodology/approach – The authors identified three fields drawn together by the science of how carbon emissions can be measured, the social practices of carbon accounting, and accountability within the global carbon governance system. The authors hosted a workshop, and invited representatives participating in each of the organisational fields to highlight the contentious conversations within their field. The authors facilitated an across-field exploration of whether and how to achieve accuracy, consistency and certainty in carbon accounting.
Findings – It was found that there are tensions between accuracy, consistency and certainty in carbon accounting both within and across organisational fields. Framing the evolution of carbon accounting as negotiation between these goals across fields yields powerful implications for addressing current challenges in carbon accounting.
Practical implications – The authors provide guidance to policymakers on how to recognise legitimate uncertainty in carbon management science, manage the cost-benefits of policy and reporting mechanisms, and ensure actual greenhouse gas emissions reductions.
Originality/value – This paper exploits the unusual approach of integrating carbon accounting across levels of analysis, from the molecular level through processes, organisations, industries and nations. This approach should help scientific, corporate and policy decision-makers move towards a more fully functioning carbon accounting system.
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