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Data-Driven Decision-Making With Connected Financial and Carbon Information

Data-Driven Decision-Making With Connected Financial and Carbon Information

Published 06-13-24

Submitted by SAP

City landscape

Feature by Stephan Mueller

What if enterprise decisions considered both profit and planet, empowering every level of a company to make better product, pricing, financial, and investment choices? It’s not only possible, it is an achievable reality according to new research conducted by SAP and Technical University of Munich.

Carbon management can add emission quantities to existing financial accounting and connect emissions and finance at the transactional level — transforming carbon accounting practices, producing a more comprehensive view of a company’s sustainability position. With this added dimension, decision-making becomes more integrated and efficient. By shifting the carbon management mindset, companies can also provide investors with more decision-useful information.

The research shows there are clear benefits and opportunities to businesses that are ready to rethink carbon management, embrace transparency, and treat carbon as money in their financial accounting and reporting practices.

Reimagining Carbon Management

A recent study by the Technical University of Munich and SAP generated some promising results and opportunities for carbon management enhancements with an ERP-centric approach. The study introduced the concept of consistently adding carbon data to a company’s general ledger transactions. This significant change allows carbon accounting to be transaction driven, with journal entries consisting of both monetary values and carbon emissions. The modification enables integrated thinking, on all hierarchical levels, by considering carbon emissions at the same level of reliability and consistency as financial information.

Beyond environmental responsibility, this innovative approach unlocks additional advantages. Merging carbon data with financials strengthens the very foundation of a company: the data itself. Balance sheets and income statements will represent a more complete picture of a company’s impact. This level of transparency and elevated quality of data empowers investors and decision makers while advancing decision-useful information.

Quality of data — from inside and outside a company’s core operations — is also critical when moving toward embedding artificial intelligence (AI) across business processes and analytics. AI will help companies accelerate their sustainability impact by improving operational efficiency, fostering greater transparency around emissions, automating reports, and complying with ever-evolving regulations.

Global Transparency

Carbon reporting is rapidly becoming a standard requirement for business. The common denominator is the set of requirements put forth by the Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Protocol. SAP proactively anticipated and closely monitors the laws and regulations developing in this sector.

With the global trends toward a low-carbon, modern economy driving business transformation, SAP developed SAP Green Ledger, an ERP-centric solution that builds on existing financial accounting practices and applies them to carbon accounting standards.

This new ledger-based accounting elevates greenhouse gas counting to true accounting using financial steering dimensions. By doing so, SAP Sustainability solutions are set apart through deep integration with SAP cloud ERP solution business processes, providing precise and actionable insights rather than the estimates/averages in competing solutions. This unique approach will empower companies to go beyond regulatory compliance and embed sustainability into their operation to drive meaningful change. By aligning business processes with sustainability goals, companies can pave the way for a sustainable future.

Make Carbon Audit-Ready

To reach net-zero targets, most companies must consider carbon offsets as part of their decarbonization journey. SAP’s carbon management approach recognizes offsets as intangible assets.

With SAP Green Ledger, both carbon and financial information are recorded, resulting in a carbon flow statement that shows carbon emissions across all three scopes. The flow items incorporate initial, additional, exiting, and ending carbon balances, as well as emissions not allocated to an asset position in the balance sheet. Adoption of this new carbon accounting process could take different forms, but all leverage the existing ERP system and general ledger accounts.

Standard auditing procedures were also considered and accommodated for in this methodology. Since carbon emissions are allocated to transactions as quantities expressed in tons of CO2e, auditors can verify these transactions and their corresponding internal controls. Auditors can also perform an assessment covering the assertions of completeness, existence, accuracy, valuation, and presentation.

Reporting of sustainability-related data is within the purview of the governing bodies and subject to change. Downstream Scope 3 emissions and non-financial transactions are not yet part of this approach; however, future research could find ways to integrate those components.

Don’t Just Report Profits, Report Progress

Carbon reporting is a crucial aspect of a decarbonizing economy. Our new methodology fosters integrated thinking — between finance and sustainability — producing a clearer view of a company and their products’ carbon footprint.

“Our study has the potential to significantly transform carbon accounting practices,” Professor Dr. Jürgen Ernstberger, a primary contributor to this research, affirms.

It’s a win-win for the planet and the bottom line.

Key Takeaways

ERP-centric solutions enhance carbon reporting by:

  • Increasing connectivity on a transactional level between financial and non-financial data
  • Leveraging established auditing procedures when accounting for carbon
  • Fostering integrated thinking on all hierarchical levels by providing carbon information on the same granular level as financial information
  • Producing more insightful and comprehensive reports, boosting confidence among key stakeholders and investors

To learn more, read the full report.

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