120 True cost accounting is about bookkeep ing but it s also about truth a big word It s about counting things correctly The price of food has to take account of the costs to nature and society At the moment we don t do this so we have an uneven playing field in the market It pays to exploit the planet as well as society Because the less money you pay people for their work and the more environmental damage you pass on to fu ture generations the cheaper the price This is an un natural situation that must and will change Why won t true costs just remain a top ic that s discussed at conferences Because true cost accounting is anchored in a larger idea We call it the four M s Sustainability can be MEAS URED regardless of what is being produced pasta tea or tomatoes Sustainability has to be MONITORED and MANAGED And sustainability also has to be MONET ISED so that our green business practices don t put us in the red At this point the zeitgeist is fully on board This is where we leave the ivory tower Nowadays large banks like the Bank of England and the central banks all perform cli mate stress tests How does that work exactly They ask What is your profit A thousand okay What would your profit be if you had to pay a price for your green house gas emissions Ah then you d only have 200 That sig nifies a risk for us bankers and investors Because after the UN climate conferences in Paris and Marrakech we can t rule out that you ll be charged for your CO 2 emissions That s why big auditing firms like Deloitte and Ernst Young are now also being commissioned by major investors to do things like water pollution and biodiversity stress tests Are consumers interested in the true costs Consumers approach it from a different angle They are in creasingly worried about too much meat About their health About water pollution Not just as consumers but as tax payers as well In France the damage that s been caused to groundwater through pollution from agrochemicals and syn thetic fertilisers currently amounts to 50 billion euros This is agriculture that is being subsidised with tax revenues And taxpayers don t like this That s why pressure is now also coming from liberal policymakers who are generally in fa vour of lowering taxes People want the polluter to pay not gain a competitive advantage Nature and society are shed ding their invisibility and becoming a real part of the profit and loss calculations of this new kind of accounting Nature is sending a bill Yes that s right If we look at the pilot projects related to the topic of true costs in the beginning all the usual suspects were involved Lebensbaum GLS Gemeinschaftsbank Tri odos Bank and a few other green friends In the meantime the central bank of the Netherlands has joined as have sev eral Dutch ministries the Ministry of Agriculture the Min istry of Economy the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Health And the Ministry of Water Management that s a separate body here in Holland because the country is seven metres below sea level and climate change worries us a bit A POT OF TEA WITH Volkert Engelsman Founding director of Eosta one of the largest distributors of organic fruit and vegetables 5 Quality has roots

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