Introduction Post-modern business dis is focused on the economic and social consequences of corporate practices (Elliott and Elliott, 2006). Transparency, though, must also take into account the subjective nature of gathering, analyzing and presenting data as published accounting information. Over the past two decades there has been a significant increase in the amount of environmental legislation passed in both the UK and the USA. However, it has been noted that the requirement to disclose environmental information in annual reports of organisations does not align with the pace of legislative reform with regard to environmental performances (Holland &. Foo, 2003). Between the UK and the USA, voluntary disclosure of environmental information has led to differences in reporting practices.
Summary of Holland and Foos’ Article
The exploratory study by Holland and Foo in 2003 investigated the corporate environmental reporting practices in the UK and the USA. They concluded that legislative and regulatory framework factors that make recommendations for legal and regulatory frameworks are influenced by environmental performances, and in turn determine the types of disclosures made in annual reports. Within the UK, it appears that disclosure is able to be clearly identified in annual reports, and the content focuses mostly on the management of environmental activities through management systems. In contrast, in the USA, there is clearly more focus on legislation, which produces a response in the annual report. Hence, it seems that the UK method of disclosure of environmental information is clearly separated and places the user needs first. However, this may be a process of legitimation, whereby disclosure justifies the environmental activities. So that there may be a conflict of interest between what preparers disclose, who for, and the needs of the users and other stakeholders. Turning now to the USA, although the volume of environmental information disclosed does not appear to differ to that of the UK. It is not known at this point whether the differences indicate greater management integration in the UK and a more reactive response in the USA, further empirical investigation is required.
Consequences and Implications
The article has applications to the contemporary business world. Clearly, 21st century organisations are only able to function if the society in which they are located perceives the organisation to be operating within a similar value system to the rest of society (Holland &. Foo, 2003). International focus on issues of corporate social responsibility (CSR) is at a time when the social performance and integrity of an organisation are under scrutiny (Holland &. Foo, 2003. Schreuder, &. Ramanathan, 2002).
It also appears that the practices of the UK favor the users in terms of their ability to understand the data disclosed, and to the relevance of the findings to themselves as stakeholders.
Although legislation is increasing in the UK it appears that disclosure’s main driver remains the management and reporting initiatives (Holland &. Foo, 2003). Hence, the proactive response may increase voluntary disclosure but issues of comparability and reliability are ignored. Motivations to report in the USA have significantly increased since 1989, although the overall quality of environmental disclosures remains low. Evidently, more research is required to identify processes to increase the reliability of reports to enable within-nation and across nation comparisons.
Overall, an accountability framework that necessitates preparers to use disclosure as a method tho discharge their accountability, can reveal the implicit activities of the organisation and so provide a better demonstration of ‘true’ accountability rather that a reactive disclosure that follows a strict regulatory framework. A disclosure model that brings to light management practices can make an organization more transparent than an organization that simply discloses due to legislative pressures.
Holland, L. &. Foo, Y. B. (2003). Differences in environmental reporting practices in the UK and
the US: The legal and regulatory context. The British Accounting Review 35, 1-18.
Elliott, B., &. Elliott, J. (2006) Financial Accounting and Reporting, 11th ed. Harlow: Prentice
Schreuder, H., &. Ramanathan, K. (2002) Accounting and corporate accountability: An
extended comment. Accounting, Organizations and Society, 19(3-4),