From July 1 the first swathe of Australian companies affected by the National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting Act will be obliged to collect data on energy use and emissions — data that will eventually be put on public view.
Most of the country's biggest companies have realised the new greenhouse and energy reporting system is just the first step in learning how to do business in a carbon-constrained future.
"The real issue is reduction," says Cap Gemini's vice-president, climate and energy, Justin Greig.
"The visibility and reporting required by the [National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting] Act is just one step in the journey. Most of the companies we work with are contemplating how to respond when the regulatory environment becomes more assertive and the cost of energy goes up."
Cap Gemini's Australian arm is drawing heavily on international resources from its European-based parent to help meet a sharp increase in demand in the domestic market as the first reporting deadline looms.
Other consulting firms have also increased their green-collar workforces. Ernst & Young has 38 people working in its sustainability and assurance advisory services team. That number has doubled in the last couple of years and will double again in the next two years, said Ernst & Young partner, sustainability assurance and advisory, Trent van Veen.
"The work companies do now to comply with the new reporting framework will be the foundation for their future carbon accounting. It will have a long-term affect on how assets are booked."
Small businesses won't be required to account for their carbon emissions for some years, but firms such as accounting software maker MYOB are also exploring how they can facilitate the process.
"It will require more data input from small businesses and that's one of the things we've really been researching," MYOB Australia's managing director Tim Reed says.
"It's very doable and really the question is, how can we achieve it without adding to the administrative burden that most small business owners face?"
Six months ago East & Partners, commissioned by PricewaterhouseCoopers, surveyed 303 executives managing businesses with a turnover of $150 million and found only 2% had a high level of confidence in their company's greenhouse gas emissions data. Only 6% fully understood climate change reporting requirements and just 5% had budgeted for the preparations.
— Australian Financial Review