Environmental Accounting

Environmental Accounting

The INTOSAI WGEA has earlier worked with natural resource and environmental accounting, but as the field is developing, there is a need to update that work. In 20 years, natural capital accounting has taken major steps forward. The official international framework for natural capital accounting, The System of Environmental Economic Accounting (SEEA), was adopted by the United Nations Statistical Commission in 2010. The INTOSAI WGEA discussed SEEA in its publication Environmental Accounting: Current Status and Options for SAIs (2010). SEEA has developed significantly, and it would be beneficial to update WGEA work on environmental accounting related issues. On top of that, a new innovative component of natural capital accounting, ecosystem accounting, has emerged, and its importance has been highlighted by academia.

The term environmental accounting can mean different things in different countries. For the purpose of this project a broad definition for environmental accounting is taken as the integration of economic and environmental information to support decision-making.

This project focuses on national environmental accounts prepared under the SEEA. According to a 2022 global assessment, 92 countries have now implemented some form of environmental accounting under this standard. These accounts are designed to support holistic policy decision-making by setting out information on environmental assets and how these change over time, to support policy-makers’ understanding of interactions between the economy and the natural environment.

While this project focuses on environmental accounts prepared under the SEEA framework, it is not restricted to these accounts. The project explores also other frameworks and techniques that fall under a broader definition of environmental accounting like natural capital accounting and environmental policy appraisal.

This project brings together international SAI experiences of environmental accounting with the aim to explore:

  • how public sector organisations currently use different environmental accounting frameworks and techniques to inform environmental performance measurement and decision-making;
  • the potential role for SAIs in relation to national environmental accounts, either in an assurance space or through using our influence to encourage governments to adopt best practice; and
  • whether SAIs could draw on environmental accounting frameworks and techniques when carrying out environmental performance audits (for example to understand the environmental and economic impact of a government project).

The project provides a possibility for wide collaboration with national statistics agencies, the United Nations Statistics Commission, national governments, and accountancy representative bodies (such as CIPFA). The SEEA has been developed by UN Statistics Division and UN DESA as well as UNEP are strongly involved to work with environmental accounting related issues.

This project is closely linked to the access on data and data quality concerns, which have been identified as key barrier in environmental audits e.g. in the global WGEA survey in 2021.


Project Lead:


Project Group:

SAIs of Brazil, India, Indonesia, Maldives, Poland, and Thailand

Main Goal:

Increased understanding of environmental accounting in general, the recent developments and the potential implications for SAIs.

Key Outcomes: 

  • Factsheet and case studies on environmental accounting
  • Possible roundtable/webinar discussion with key stakeholders
  • Menu of options for SAIs to consider in developing their engagement with environmental accounts

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