Sustainability Accounting — don’t count your chickens, count your sustainably sourced organically farmed chickens
David Attenborough has been activating behind the scenes for several years across international forums like the ECB and WTO for us to redouble our efforts on climate change.
His recent documentary, ‘Life on Our Planet’, revealed alarming facts about the rate of global warming and its consequences.
Bourneo’s rainforest has been reduced by half over the century. More than half the species live in rainforest habitats which are being harvested for timber and replaced by palm oil plantations.
Around 3 kilowatt hours of solar energy per day are captured by photosynthesis and the continued degradation of this vital ecosystem Attenborough believes will lead to a chain reaction by which at the end of the century the global temperature will have increased by four degrees Celsius and many regions become uninhabitable.
The net change in temperature over the last century was ‘only’ one degree Celsius but already this has had dramatic effects on vital ecosystems. Fishing with fleets has removed 90% of the large fish in the sea. Large predators capture nutrients which they recycle for plankton’; coral whitening, when plankton are expelled by the corals which they live inside, and lose their vibrant colouring, is linked to ocean warming.
Whole reefs now lie like ghosts devoid of life, and some island communities have successfully instigated “No Fish” zones to give fish populations time to recover and this has meant the fish populations within fishing zones have also returned to normal.
Louise Palmer-Masterton, founder of 12-strong vegan restaurant chain Stem and Glory, has placed sustainability as one of its key principles, and this is reflected not only in the menu options but also in the décor.
“ Obviously as a vegan brand we are hoping that the whole world will eventually refrain from eating meat. But even if you are not vegan, the fact that 65% of all the mammals on this planet are farm animals, their devastating carbon impact and land use cannot be overstated.
It’s simply not sustainable for the 11 billion animals on the planet to eat other animals. But what does this mean for a business or for one that serves meat? …Fortunately / unfortunately it means you need to pivot your business model. Although it might feel like your offering is well supported now, it will become increasingly regarded as unethical in the future.
Happily the UN is considering a global initiative to address over-fishing and implementing designated “No Fish” zones to help fish populations normalize.
Another well-documented way to make sure your company is environmentally-friendly in its operations is to scrutinize its supply chain. What percentage of palm oil consumption is from suppliers that are certified by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO)?
This is a global consortium which works to ensure that palm oil production is conducted so that fair labor conditions and indigenous land rights are protected; that wildlife on plantations is protected through land use restrictions, and protected areas; and no clearing of primary forests. Since it was first convened by the WWF, 30% of palm oil production has been certified, and 189.777 hectares of forest preserved.
But the RSPO, and another supply chain certifying body the Rainforest Alliance, remains committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, minimizing industrial pollution, and encouraging vendors and consumers to “make the right decisions.” Wood fiber is another commonly used commodity with a problematic pollution footprint, and you can manage this risk by documenting the total wood fiber purchased as a percentage from certified sources.
Another way to add green kudos to your accounting process is to document your packaging lifecycle management, detailing the total weight of packaging utilized; and as a percentage of that where it has been sourced from recycled and renewable materials. For further sustainability brownie points, document the percentage of packaging that is a) recyclable, b) compostable, and c) degradable. Include a discussion of how you are pushing the envelope in innovation.
Product safety is another key metric according to the Industry Working Group for the SASB (Sustainability Accounting Standards Board) Standards Development Team, which laid out its core considerations in a paper made public December 2014. There is growing concern about the use of artificial musks, steroids that promote muscle growth; and follicle-stimulating hormones such as some contraceptives; some household cleaning products; and a list of other products on the California DTSC Chemicals of Concern.
For extra accounting points, you can document revenue from products designed with green chemistry principles (USD); and a discussion of the internal process to identify and manage emerging materials and Chemicals of Concern.
“By losing the biodiversity of our land, we are fast accelerating towards extinction as our planet struggles with the excess demands placed upon it. The earth has finite commodities, but we are acting like they are limitless.”