From XU Magazine, 
Issue 38

Accounting for the Planet

How Tech Innovations Empower Sustainable Practices

Discover how cutting-edge technology is reshaping sustainable accounting practices for a greener future in our latest insightful feature.
This article originated from the Xero blog. The XU Hub is an independent news and media platform - for Xero users, by Xero users. Any content, imagery and associated links below are directly from Xero and not produced by the XU Hub.
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As an accountant or bookkeeper, you have taken on a dual responsibility. The responsibility to your client is to deliver the services you agreed upon to the best of your ability, yet by joining a professional body, you also follow a charter. The charter also highlights a responsibility to the public.

As public perception and the reality of sustainability have emerged, one would wonder when accountants and their respective charters will start to take on more moral responsibility of holding businesses to higher standards.

To create a sustainable future; technology will be a necessity. While we expect to see technology evolve, I want to look at a few key technologies available today that will help you and your clients be more sustainable.

Cloud Accounting

Cloud computing has played a key role in enhancing sustainability. We may be used to the Xero’s of this world being easily accessible, and giving us incredible benefits. What is sometimes overlooked is that cloud accounting solutions are also more resource-efficient.

Back when we needed servers to run legacy applications, it meant that each business or accounting firm had servers running 24/7, spending most of the time running idle. Moving to the cloud has allowed the big accounting players to take on the processing power, and share it on-demand amongst all their clients. Being global players, the resources are more easily distributed.

Data Analytics and AI

AI and its analytical capabilities, being able to process massive amounts of data and churn out information that can power the world of tomorrow. Paired with a trusted advisor, the insights can drive positive change.

After all, being sustainable means being profitable. Otherwise, businesses are not empowered to create positive change.

Within the UN’s goals for sustainable development AI also brings the promise of reducing inequalities, key in creating a sustainable future..

Carbon & Environmental Reporting

Several accounting events worldwide have been raising awareness about this novel area in accounting. It’s not everyone’s bread and butter, however, environmental reporting is proving to be a unique niche for some.

Carbon Accounting, as it’s been touted comes in different levels. In its most accurate form, it involved in-depth analysis and research of all the elements which cause emissions. Possibly overwhelming for small and micro businesses. Technology has however lowered the barrier to entry for many of the smaller accounting firms, including with white-label products that you can package for clients.


App stacks and partnership collaborations across the accounting sphere, or tech worldwide wouldn’t be possible without the use of APIs.

APIs, for Application Programming Interface, is effectively how different systems can communicate. Zapier is a prime example of leveraging this technology for connectivity, with thousands of connected apps, though it does leave an untrained user to fill the gaps.

Xero has for one built its empire on the App Ecosystem, with over 800+ apps that leverage Xero’s API to push and pull data from it to do all sorts of magical things. Things that most of the time Xero themselves are not interested in. APIs allow Xero to focus on its core accounting package and other partner apps to solve niche problems that may be industry-specific.

Connecting the dots

Over the past decade, I’ve led teams that have leveraged the power of APIs to build bespoke applications, and tailored integrations in between various platforms.

Compare Your Footprint, is a prime example of how the world of sustainability leverages APIs to link itself into the accounting world. Leveraging the accounting data found in Xero and other leading accounting platforms, they can transform your spending data into a respectable carbon footprint.

To do this, we get your authorisation to request data from Xero via their API, pull up all your expenses and convert them into carbon emissions.

This then empowers a business to start measuring its environmental impact without having to significantly invest in the administrative burden, previously a necessary evil that kept micro and small businesses from attempting to track their emissions.

All-in-One App vs App Stacks

If you work for practice, for your own internal sanity and sustainability, you should always push for clients to use an app stack.

An app stack allows your team to leverage efficiencies both of scale and knowledge, ensuring that you can deliver better and more cost-effective results. Yet giving the business flexibility and scalability they need by having industry-specific products they can work with daily.

This also empowers new technologies to come through and innovate, as it’s practically impossible for new solutions to come and do-it-all. A key area for long-term sustainability as without collaboration making the world a better place is impossible.

When you’re hiring you don’t pick a jack of all trades, master of none. You always hire for specialised roles, you should do the same when they’re choosing software.

What happens when you can’t find an app?

As vast as the app marketplace is, there are still more verticals and business scenarios that may not be covered through this vast library. Equally many good apps have not yet discovered Xero, or your favourite cloud accounting package.

That’s when you should consider finding someone who can build custom apps and integrations. Yet there’s no need to reinvent the wheel they can plug into Xero and many of the marketplace apps, so the different business teams can use and leverage the perfect tool for what you need, while you get a cohesive, well-integrated solution.

Why leave it there?

To discover the magic, and unleash the power of accounting integrations

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