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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Bucking the bottom line: exploring social accounting and auditing as a tool to develop organizations' social responsibility and accountability Evans, Heather Ann


Society's strategy for achieving well being is incompatible with long term global development. The consequences of economic growth and expansion are manifested in severe ecological and social crisis. Structural changes are needed throughout society's institutions to shift the dominant concept and pursuit of progress toward a concept of progress that is based on the development of balanced social, ecological and economic well being. This involves changing roles, responsibilities and accountability of many global institutions and organizations including government, corporations and civil society. Reviews of both dominant theory's (classical theory) and current corporate-led practices' perceptions about corporate social responsibility and accountability elucidate their limitations to motivate or support structural changes, thus prompting the need to explore alternative theories and practices for structural change. Social institution theories and structural change theories are examined as alternatives, as well as alternative practices that build corporate social responsibility. The main objective of the thesis is to explore social accounting as tool for corporations and other organizations to build social responsibility and accountability in society. This objective is explored by studying and analyzing the current practices and theoretical perspectives on social accounting and auditing. Social accounting and auditing principles are applied and further examined by developing a multiple bottom line framework for VanCity Credit Union's Alternative Lending Program. Social accounting and auditing has limited applicability to large corporations since their profit motive prevents their transparency and accountability. The contribution of social accounting and auditing in society is to increase the accountability of some organizations: it allows some corporations with unique social goals to substantiate their claims for social responsibility. Social accounting and auditing is also key in assessing the performance of organizations in the social economy since their social contributions to society are undermined by mainstream bottom line assessment. The role of civil society in advancing social accounting practices is essential. It is concluded that social accounting and auditing should be developed in conjuntion with practices that resist negative outcomes of the growing global economy, as well as in co-ordination with local strategies that strive to develop an economy focused on meeting local needs.

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