Aligning the SEEA with Business Accounting
One of the major outcomes of the 15th Meeting of the UN Committee of Experts on Environmental-Economic Accounting (UNCEEA) was the Committee's support for aligning public and private sector approaches to accounting for the environment and ecosystems. The Committee, which sets overall priorities and direction in the field of environmental economic accounting, agreed to get actively involved in efforts towards alignment through the establishment of a subgroup on business accounting.
There had already been some activity in this area prior to the recent meeting, which took place on 6, 8, and 9 July 2020. In particular, under the E.U.-funded Natural Capital Accounting and Valuation of Ecosystem Services (NCAVES) project, there is a workstream on business accounting which aims to contribute to alignment between the SEEA and corporate sustainability accounting and reporting. One of the first main activities under this workstream was a scoping workshop in 2019 which brought together businesses, national statistical offices, NGOs and standard-setters. One of the main takeaways from the workshop was that alignment between public and private sector approaches to accounting and reporting on the environment would be mutually beneficial. Alignment would increase the usefulness of SEEA data for business decision making and reporting. Alignment would also enhance the usability of input data from businesses for national statistical offices for compiling the accounts.
To take this endeavor further, a roadmap was developed based on many of the findings during the scoping workshop, as well as a business consultation and literature review. The roadmap, which was endorsed by the Committee, contains four major areas of work including coordination, communication, methodology and capacity building (see below). One of the first activities will be the establishment of a group within the UNCEEA. This group will be responsible for carrying out the programme of work on business accounting and the SEEA. Already some activities under the roadmap have been started under the NCAVES project. Current activities include the development of a common glossary for the public and private sectors on natural capital accounting, as well as the development of pilot case studies on how companies can use the accounts. It is planned that in the medium-term, additional pilot case studies will be developed which can be turned into guidance and trainings for both the public and private sectors (e.g. “how to use national-level SEEA accounts” for businesses and “how to produce SEEA data for businesses” for national statistical offices). In the long-term, it is envisaged that there will be alignment of public and private sector approaches, for example, through an “E-GAAP”, which is an initiative towards a standardized natural capital accounting and valuation methodology for businesses, developed in line with the European Green Deal.