As a rule, economic activity - through use and exploitation of resources - leads to changes in the state of the environment or natural assets. Attempts are made to counteract these negative effects through targeted environmental protection measures.
In order to obtain a complete picture of the interactions between environment and society, it is necessary to acquire information about the state of the environment, as well as about key tendencies, influences and the main causes of environmental change.
An overall picture must also include the services which the environment supplies, the so-called ecosystem services. These are generally defined as those services that are provided by nature and that people use in order to support their well-being and to secure their livelihoods.
In accordance with the Sixth Environment Action Programme for the EU, all the above information is a necessary requirement for the development and implementation of efficient policy.
To be able to supply the required information, instruments are needed which allow a better public representation of the above mentioned environmental impacts of economic activities and society.
Environmental accounting is such an instrument. With their information on economic and environmental data, environmental accounts provide an important basis for making environmental policy decisions.
The System of Environmental and Economic Accounting (SEEA), developed under the auspices of the United Nations, is considered to be the most important methodical basis for environmental accounting.