Balancing Performance, Ethics, and Accountability1

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Practical mechanisms for aligning performance, ethics, and accountability are urgently needed. The context for this includes the organisational, technological, and regulatory transformations underlying current patterns of globalisation. These factors, combined with the associated emergence of civil action concerned with corporate accountability and deeper value-shifts, make such realignments a practical possibility.

Social and ethical accounting, auditing, and reporting provides one of the few practical mechanisms for companies to integrate new patterns of civil accountability and governance with a business success model focused on deepening stakeholder relationships around core non-financial as well as financial values and interests.

Experience over the past decade has enabled viable and effective methods to evolve and to lay the foundation of “standards-in-practice” against which future accounting, auditing, and reporting, will be benchmarked. Institutions are emerging to regularise this arena of actions, in the first instance through voluntary codes and process standards.

A number of challenges exist in securing social and ethical accounting and auditing as a legitimate and effective framework within which organisations can achieve an appropriate balance of financial and non-financial interests, aims, actions, and outcomes. The emerging experience, expertise, methodologies, and institutions provide the basis for these challenges to be effectively met.

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