Organizing Transnational Accountability

Organizing Transnational Accountability

Edited by Magnus Boström and Christina Garsten

This book adds a multi-disciplinary organizational perspective to the theoretical analysis of political accountability and argues for a broadening of the conventional understanding of the concepts of responsibility and accountability.

Chapter 7: Boundaries of Responsible Buying: Accountability for What and to Whom?

Karin Svedberg Nilsson

Subjects: business and management, corporate social responsibility, organisation studies, environment, corporate social responsibility, environmental sociology


Karin Svedberg Nilsson INTRODUCTION Many are the calls for increased accountability: for better control of business processes, greater transparency, increased ethical standards, a higher degree of sensitivity to the needs of services recipients and so on. Accountability is a sought-after but elusive concept. It appears in many guises and is constructed in a number of ways in local settings (Sinclair, 1995). In this chapter I discuss the construction of accountability in business organizations. There seems to be one common view of accountability in relation to the world of business: the responsibility of managers, first and foremost, is to ensure that organizations perform in line with the interests of their owners. This framing of accountability is apparent within agency theory, the basic tenets of which have become something of a standard for conceptualizing and designing systems for corporate governance (Roberts, 2005; Lubatkin et al., 2005). Owners have invested money and managers have been hired to run their enterprises. It can be argued, therefore, that managers have a responsibility towards their owners to make the enterprise as profitable as possible, in order for the principals to obtain a return on their investments. And owners, having invested money, have the right to control managers. For when individuals or organizations have assumed the role of agents, they no longer act purely on their own accord; they act on behalf of their principals. Agents are expected to do what their principals want them to do, and principals have the right to hold agents accountable...

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