cycle analysis (Bebbington et al., 1994). Where companies are undertaking relevant activities, the extent of accountants' involvement does not appear to be high; the mean response on a scale of 1(low) to 5(high) only rose above 3 for ''disclosure in financial statements" (Bebbington et al., 1994).

By contrast, the attitudes expressed by accountants indicate enthusiasm for innovation and development of new systems, recognition of increasing regulatory demands (especially from the U.K. government and the European Community), and overall support (even if lukewarm) for companies to take on environmental responsibility, of stakeholders' rights to information about companies' environmental performance, and of the need for accountants to be involved in the preparation of such information (Bebbington et al., 1994).

Thus, the accountants' self-perception appears to conflict with their actual involvement in companies' environmental developments. The attitudes expressed correlate slightly with the actual extent of the employer organization's environmental disclosure practice. However, overall the attitudes are very homogeneous and therefore appear to reflect accountants' personalities and professional training and culture as a group. The researchers speculate that there may be aspects of the nature of professional accountancy training (which emphasizes financial measures, precision, prudence, and resistance to change—caricatured as the bean-counters who say "no") that inhibit accountants from initiating or even responding readily to change. The official pronouncements from professional accountancy bodies that encourage greater environmental activity (e.g.; Macve and Carey, 1992) have so far largely washed over accountants in practice.

Companies also seem unsure about how to use the accountants' potential contribution. Bebbington et al. (1994, p. 119) quote "a senior finance director whose company is one of the UK's leaders in responding to the environmental agenda":

We found it extremely difficult to see how we could put these things [environmental matters] into the accounting records … accounting approaches encourage short-term attitudes—community investment, like environmental investment, requires a long-term attitude.

Incentives

The critical problem of performance assessment has bedeviled many environmental initiatives (Gray et al., 1993, p. 155).

Ex ante control … does not guarantee success. That is, the ex post audit and evaluation must take explicit cognizance of the environmental criteria. This is especially difficult in highly decentralized organizations. For example, Albright and Wilson's early environmental response was to set internal best available technology not entailing excessive cost (BATNEEC)8 across all sites. Managers soon learned, however, that if they failed to meet financial targets—as opposed to environmental, BATNEEC considerations—they were penalized.



The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement