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Carbon Accountants: What They Do and Why They Matter

Carbon accountants work with companies to measure, manage, and disclose their contributions to climate change.

By Allison Arieff, MIT Technology Review (TNS)

His official title is vice president of regulated reporting solutions. But really, Billy Scherba, CPA, is a carbon accountant. At Persefoni, a platform for climate management, Scherba works with companies to measure, manage, and disclose their contributions to climate change.

Billy Scherba

Carbon accountants help companies understand what data matters to their carbon footprint, how to collect that data in a consistent manner, and how to use it to calculate the greenhouse-gas emissions they’re responsible for. 

Many times, that means working with clients to upgrade their data infrastructure so it’s easier to see what parts of their operations emit the most. 

A growing field 

A relatively new occupation, carbon accounting involves collecting a wide variety of data from an organization and using consistent measurement techniques to translate that data into a carbon emissions footprint. The calculations can be based on specific organizational activities such as business flights, kilowatt-hours from a utility bill, the kinds of fuel used to transport products, or even financial data. As organizations collect and analyze more granular data, their calculations get more precise. 

Notes on methodology

The Greenhouse Gas Protocol (GHGP), developed by the World Resources Institute and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, is the primary methodology used for carbon accounting and is available publicly at no cost. Other, specialized carbon accounting standards do exist, but regulators from the Securities and Exchange Commission, the European Union, Japan, and others have incorporated the GHGP into their rulings, making it the go-to accounting method for organizations publicly disclosing their carbon emissions. 

Measure. Report. Decarbonize.

Business leaders need data they can understand that highlights where their firms are having the most significant positive and negative climate impact. “Good data should be used to drive business and societal value,” says Scherba. “As we build controls and ensure this data is reliable, we have an opportunity to use it to make better climate decisions.” 


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