Belkaoui and Karpik, were among the first who tried to test Watts and Zimmerman arguments and to link the choice of accounting techniques made by managers, in order deal with the cost monitoring and the political visibility of their companies, with the social and environmental disclosure. Using both a literature based survey and empirical tests they associate the political visibility, as it is measured by the size, of the firms with the tendency of their managers to disclose more social and environmental information.
They suggest that this can be used as a technique to reduce the reported profits of a firm, since the environmental and social reporting increases the costs of the firm, as well as to build a good image for the firm. Finally, through their findings, they seemed to support that politically visible firms tend to disclose more social and environmental information while firms with high debt/equity ratios tend to disclose less. Lemon and Cahan argue that, public pressure groups as the environmental activist organizations will try to pressure government officers to impose costs on firms with bad environmental performance.
As a consequence, companies which are politically visible or are under the scrutiny of the public about their environmental performance might be more willing to provide information about their environmental programs. Since the companies annual reports are the main source of information used by all the interested parties, those companies are expected to disclose an increasing amount of environmental reporting information in their financial accounts.
Deegan and Carroll are trying to relate the willingness of some companies to get an annual reporting excellence award with the political cost hypothesis. In order to get this award those companies paid more attention to social and environmental reporting than companies who are not interested in something like that. Finally they suggest that companies susceptible to high political cost are more likely to apply for such an award than companies not susceptible to it.
Milne is arguing against the PAT ability to explain the greening of financial accounting disclosure. He assumes that the main point of the PAT is the managers’ willingness to use the financial reporting in order to protect their own wealth interests. Moreover, he points out that W. Z. makes only few references to social responsibility and its relationship with their main arguments. Consequently, he suggests that there can not be links between the PAT and the ER.
But, with all due respect, he seems to base his arguments on a word by word examination of the PAT and he does not pay the necessary attention into the theories ability to be expanded in a related subject area. Systems theory for example, was subject of the biology studies but nowadays it is used widely by the business studies literature. Eventually, it seems that PAT can explain the increasing disclosure of environmental reporting information into the firms’ annual reports. The most links between them are more likely to be found through the Political cost hypothesis.
The question coming next is about the PAT ability to provide a framework for the ER. A review of W. Z. arguments reveals that PAT focuses more in explaining the motives behind the managers’ willingness to adopt several accounting techniques in order to support their own benefits or to protect their companies from being exposed to high political cost. They mention social and environmental reporting, but it seems that they are using it as a possible tool which can be used by the firms. Moreover, W. Z.
seems not to be interested in providing a framework for the techniques they mention, their job is more about explaining and predicting the policies that can be chosen by the firms’ management in order to achieve their goals. In addition, no one of the PAT supporters (Belkaoui and Karpik, Deegan and Carroll, Lemon and Cahan) seems to relate it with a possible framework for the ER. What they try to do is, to explain how PAT can be related with social and environmental disclosure and to test it through their researches. It seems that PAT can not provide a framework for the ER but now one might ask what can provide such a framework.