Carbon accounting and organisational decision-making


This project produces new knowledge on the role of quantification in sustainability accounting in general, and carbon accounting in particular. Our research provides societies and organisations with better understanding of how carbon management can be integrated into organizational decision-making, while shedding more light on the potential preconditions and barriers that might exist for it.

Project information

Project duration


Funded by

Research Council of Finland - Academy Project

Project funder

Academy of Finland

Funding amount

280 000 EUR

Project coordinator

University of Oulu

Contact information

Project leader

  • Professor
    Janne Järvinen

Contact person

Project description

This proposal takes an accounting perspective on climate change, which is a key sustainability issue. It is increasingly clear that current global economic and social systems are not sustainable. Given that the business world and corporations are both a key source of global carbon emissions as well as a hub for new innovations, we maintain that any sustainability transition to a low-carbon future is dependent on the involvement of the business world.

Accounting practices can play a key role in the aspired sustainability transitions by making social and ecological issues visible, measurable and controllable. We argue that the market system and economic institutions can steer societies towards low-carbon alternatives, but this requires that sustainability in general and carbon emissions in particular are included in the information used for decision-making. In other words, we maintain that financial and non-financial accounting information are key drivers of organizational behavior. In the sphere of calculative mechanisms incorporating both financial and non-financial elements, the ideas of commensuration, qualification and monetization become central.

This proposal asks how accounting-based quantifications of carbon emissions are integrated into systems that support organizational decision-making and control. We explore how the novel field of carbon accounting can potentially be used to progressively break down silos that continue to exist between the discrete domains of financial accounting and sustainability accounting.

Following an interpretive research approach, we collect our data set through three qualitative case studies, which provide distinct but interlinking perspectives on our topic. Drawing on this empirical basis, our work explores whether, and if so how, carbon externalities can gradually become internalized, bringing them more closely aligned and readily available within the economically oriented accounting practices, which we argue would potentially help in a transition towards a low-carbon society.