Social Responsibility Audits
Social responsibility audits are a process of evaluating a corporation’s social responsibility performance.
Apply the general concept of auditing to the larger framework of social responsibility within organizations
- Social responsibility audits rely on a process of accounting known by various names, including social accounting, sustainability accounting, corporate social responsibility (CSR) reporting, environmental and social governance (ESG) reporting, and triple-bottom-line accounting.
- Most social, environmental, and sustainability reports are produced voluntarily by corporations themselves and are not held to the same external standards as financial reporting. The practice of hiring independent social responsibility audit firms, however, is growing.
- Little consensus exists about how to define and use metrics of social performance, making social audits different from financial audits, for which there are generally accepted standards.
- audit: An independent review of records and activities to assess system controls, to ensure compliance with established policies and procedures, and to recommend changes in controls, policies, or procedures.
- responsibility: A duty, obligation, or liability for which someone is held accountable.
An audit is a systematic independent examination of data, statements, records, operations, and performance (financial or otherwise) of a process or enterprise for a stated purpose. The purpose of an audit is to provide third-party assurance to various stakeholders that the subject matter is free from material misstatement and represents a true and accurate depiction of actions and events. Areas of business that are commonly audited include financial performance, internal controls, quality management, project management, water management, and energy conservation.
Social responsibility audits are a process of reviewing and evaluating a corporation’s social responsibility (CSR) performance. As with financial audits, social responsibility audits involve accounting processes. This type of accounting originated in the early 1990s and is known by various names, including social accounting, sustainability accounting, CSR reporting, environmental and social governance (ESG) reporting, and triple-bottom-line accounting (encompassing social and environmental as well as financial reporting). Social accounting is the process of communicating the social and environmental effects of an organization ‘s economic actions to particular interest groups within society—including investors, customers, and NGOs—as well as to society at large.
In most countries, existing legislation regulates only a fraction of accounting for socially relevant corporate activity. In consequence, most social, environmental, and sustainability reports are produced voluntarily by corporations themselves and are not held to the same legal standards as financial reporting, for example. Organizations may also hire external firms to conduct CSR audits; these often have more credibility than an internally generated report. Having third-party groups conduct social audits is one way that corporations are held accountable for their CSR performance.
Little consensus exists about the definition and use of metrics to evaluate social impact. The lack of clearly defined standards makes social audits different from financial audits, for which there are generally accepted standards. Environmental-related accounting might address pollution emissions, resources used, or wildlife habitats damaged or re-established. Social aspects considered might include worker conditions or community investment. An audit for economic and governance responsibilities might look at transparency and the use of practices such as independent board members and separation of the roles of CEO and board chairman.