Social accounting and audit

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Social accounting and audit allows a social enterprise to build on its existing monitoring, documentation and reporting systems to develop a process whereby it can account fully for its social, environmental and economic impacts, report on its performance and draw up an action plan to improve on that performance. Through the social accounting and audit process it can understand its impact on the surrounding community and on its beneficiaries and build in accountability by engaging with its key stakeholders. In this way it can prove its value and improve its performance.

The key benefits of social accounting are that it allows an organisation to demonstrate (prove) the usefulness and relevance of what they do while at the same time providing the information any organisation needs to effectively manage itself and develop its services (improve). The process also develops accountability to an organisation’s key stakeholders through appropriate consultation methods.

The social accounting and audit framework involves three steps for a social enterprise. The first step is about an organisation clarifying its mission, objectives and related activities, and the values and principles that under-pin all its actions, as well as identifying its key stakeholders. The second step involves recognising the quantitative and qualitative indicators that enable the enterprise to report effectively on its performance and impact against its stated mission, objectives and values through data collection and consulting appropriately with its key stakeholders. The third step is about bringing all the collected information together into social accounts that are then verified by an independent panel that, once satisfied, issues a social audit statement. Most enterprises keep social accounts for a period which usually runs concurrent with their financial year. From experience the first step should be preceded by a preparatory “getting ready” stage especially for enterprises embarking on social accounting for the first time.