The environmental auditing movement gained momentum in the early 1980s as companies beset by new liabilities associated with Superfund and old hazardous waste sites wanted to insure that their operations were adhering to federal and local policies and company procedures. Most audits were initiated to avoid legal conflicts, and many companies brought in outside consultants to do the audits. The audits served many useful functions, including increasing management and employee awareness of environmental issues and initiating data collection and central monitoring of matters previously not watched as carefully. In many companies environmental auditing played a useful role in organizing information about the environment . It paved the way for the pollution prevention movement which had a great impact on company environmental management in the late 1980s when some companies started to view all of their pollution problems comprehensively and not in isolation from one another.
A system of national or business accounting where such environmental assets as air, water, and land are not considered to be free and abundant resources but instead are considered to be scarce economic assets. Any environmental damage caused by the production process must be treated as an economic expense and entered on the balance sheet accordingly. It is important to include in this framework the full environmental cost occurring over the full life cycle of a product, including not only the environmental costs incurred in the production process, but also the environmental costs resulting from use, recycling and disposal of products. This is also known as the cradle-to-grave approach.
See also Ecological economics