The Analysis of the Social Audit

The analysis of the social audit

The analysis of these activities in relation to such internal and external circumstances sheds further light on the nature of the social problems to which the corporate social policy should be directed. This analysis is a pre-condition to considering the type of social programmes which may be required.

Evaluating and selecting social programmes

The selection of social programmes will be influenced by the firm's current performance and views about that performance. One approach to this problem is to carry out 'attitude surveys' (Worcester, 2003). This allows the firm to monitor, and possibly to forecast changes in attitudes among employees, customers, shareholders, government officials and public bodies about the firm's current social programmes. This technique has been used, for example, by General Electric for the purpose of analysing social priorities (Wilson, 2004). First, the major demands of various pressure groups were listed. Next, these demands were ranked in accordance with their intensity, that is, the emphasis which they were given by each pressure group. This method of developing a long-range social policy has led one writer to define social responsibility in terms of 'social responsiveness, that is, the ability of the company to respond constructively and opportunely to changing societal needs and expectations' (Wilson, 2004).

Integrating social and business programmes

The final stage in the evolution of a long-range social policy is to translate plans into social action programmes. These programmes provide a means of allocating corporate resources to the attainment of particular social goals, and through control procedures to ensure that such goals are achieved efficiently. The use of such techniques as budgetary control enables social and business programmes to be jointly implemented.

Although we have expressed the view that the planning process, and implicitly the control process, should be reformed to allow social and economic goals to be considered in an integrated analysis, it is not possible at the present stage of the development of social responsibility accounting to effect such an integration. Hence, the proposals put forward by Bauer and Fenn must be seen as providing a theoretical blueprint for future research in developing tools of analysis in this field. In particular, their suggestion that there should be a matching of corporate social objectives with those of society at large poses very complex problems. At best, corporate managers will be able to place their own interpretation on the objectives of society at large. These objectives are not all known and often appear as part of a shift in public opinion; they are multiple, they often conflict and frequently overlap.

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Read on: The Social Audit

The social audit consists of an inventory of all activities undertaken by the company which are concerned with its relationship with society. The inventory is established by survey questionnaires in which questions are asked, such as 'what are the company's strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats?' in relation to a range of social problems associated with internal and external circumstances. Commenting on the process of conducting a social inventory for General Mills, Hunt (2004) wrote: 'In developing items to be inventoried, it was decided to pinpoint, "What does society expect of General... see: The Social Audit