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When Accounting Collides With Botany

June 29, 2017 |

This article was originally published on Pursuit.

“…I’m a financial accountant,” explains Associate Professor Potter. “My training is in examining the disclosures that organisations make around financial measures of performance and position, but more recently my work has morphed into examining the environmental and social performance reporting.”

His work has implications for investors, boards, shareholders, lenders and even employees – people who like hard numbers and reliable information. But turning trees and carbon sinks into dollar values is difficult. Trees are hard to pin down: there are so many types, with different growth rates in different environments. That’s where Professor Woodrow comes in. He brings a biologist’s understanding of things like the way turf systems grow and store carbon, or the differences in growth rates between magnolias, lemon-scented gum trees and sequoias.

“Biologists and economists have a lot more in common than we actually think. Plants are intrinsically like an economy,” says Professor Woodrow. “Plants allocate resources to optimise their outputs.’’ He was surprised to find botanists measure the growth of plants the same way economists measure growth in an economy. “We use exactly the same unit. We call it ‘relative growth rate’ and an economic measure is also ‘relative growth rate’. It’s denominated in percentage terms, and we do exactly the same.”

A cheeky smile appears on Professor Woodrow’s face as his colleague listens in. “The fastest-growing plants, of course, are better than the fastest-growing economies, though,” he says with a laugh. “We can have plants with a 50 per cent growth rate, but you think China is great with 7 to 8 per cent growth.”…”

Read on at: Pursuit.

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