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The internalisation level of sustainability issues varies among topics and among countries. Companies give up less internalised issues for more internalised ones. Discrepancies between legal, market and cultural internalisation lead to different escape strategies: firms develop a high level environmental management system and they have nice sustainability policy and reports. These achievements cover the fact that their total emission keeps increasing and they do not proceed in solving the most crucial global community or corporate governance problems. ‘Escaper’ firms are often qualified as ‘leading’ ones, as a current stream of research is also ‘escapist’: it puts too much emphasis on sustainability efforts as compared to sustainability performance. Genuine strategies focus on hardcore sustainability issues and absolute effects rather than on issues easily solved and having high PR effects. They allow for growth in innovative firms, if they crowd out less efficient or more polluting ones. They produce positive environmental value added when sector average eco-efficiency is used as benchmark and do not accelerate market expansion and consumerism.

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This paper aims to provide an overview of the key themes in the development of carbon accounting and auditing over the past twenty years. The evolution of the field since the Kyoto Agreement of 1997 has been divided into four stages. The need to account for and disclosure of greenhouse gas-related emissions of industrial organizations has emerged parallel to growing concerns about climate change, and international and national policy developments in the field have followed. Carbon accounting is an emerging field of business economics and covers a wide range of activities, including the measurement, calculation, monitoring, reporting and auditing of greenhouse gas emissions at organizational, process, product or supply chain levels. Various initiatives (such as the Greenhouse Gas Protocol or the Carbon Disclosure Project) motivate and assist industrial organizations in accounting for and reporting their achievements in the field. Different methodologies of carbon accounting (bottom-up, top-down and hybrid) enable industrial organizations to quantify their emissions; however, some trade-offs emerge when choosing among these approaches. Carbon accounting should not be an isolated task for businesses. On the contrary, there is a strong need to integrate carbon accounting issues into different functional fields in order to achieve both corporate and climate policy goals.

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