Carbon management accounting (CMA) practices in Australia’s high carbon-emission industries
Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal
School of Business and Law
Purpose: This study aims to evaluate the practices of carbon management accounting (CMA) made by companies committed to sustainability in Australia’s four highest carbon-emitting industries, including electricity, transport, stationary energy and agriculture. The evaluation covers three CMA phases (i.e. data collection, interpretation and reporting). Design/methodology/approach: This is a cross-sectional study using descriptive research. Data was collected using a questionnaire primarily derived from Burritt et al.’s (2002, 2011) CMA framework and suggestions from other references. The questionnaire includes a set of closed- and open-ended questions. Data was collected from 39 senior managers in the selected industries with direct knowledge and experience in their companies’ CMA practices. Findings: The respondents disclose numerous different motivations for their companies to practise CMA and various ways of practising their CMA. This reflects diverse industry practices due to the absence of a generally accepted standard and different stages of organisational learning. The findings also show that the respondents perceived CMA practices as essential to enhancing their companies’ sustainability performance and overall reputation. However, the majority of the respondents showed little appetite for carbon emission disclosure. Practical implications: The findings thoroughly describe the current CMA practices by companies committed to sustainability in Australia’s high carbon-emitting industries. Overall, the results show that while the respondents perceived CMA practices as essential for their companies’ sustainability performance and energy-saving, the CMA applications were inconsistent, along with some concerning results, such as a lack of assurance and accountability in the data validation and audit. These indicate the importance of policymakers to consider establishing CMA guidelines or standards to improve its practice. For any company, these findings can be used as learning materials to start or enhance CMA practice at their companies. A broader professional CMA community can strengthen the collective efforts to make CMA more robust. Social implications: The findings portray the perceptions of practitioners from Australia’s four highest carbon-emitting industries, indicating motivations to use CMA to understand their companies’ carbon footprint and reduce their companies’ environmental impacts. Originality/value: The findings contribute to the limited literature in this area and offer several valuable insights regarding the current practice of CMA in Australia, focussing on high carbon-emission industries. It also encourages more research in this area using data from other industries or countries to develop comparative results and strengthen the literature. Future research using actual carbon emission information or a longitudinal approach could also evaluate the changes and progresses in CMA practices.