Organizing Transnational Accountability
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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.
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Chapter 13: The Antinomy of Accountability

Luigi Pellizzoni


Luigi Pellizzoni INTRODUCTION I have in my hands the Environmental Report of an Italian chemical firm,1 drawn up according to the Responsible Care programme. The programme is described as a voluntary initiative aimed at overcoming mere compliance with regulations in favour of ‘an ongoing improvement of performance and dialogue and transparency towards all components of society’. Upon skimming the text and tables of this report, the typical lay citizen’s questions spring out. How should I evaluate the tasks specified in the company’s action plan? Did they actually deserve to be prioritized? How should I consider financial investments, technology improvements and performance records (regarding emissions into the atmosphere and water, for example) contained in the report? Do they represent major commitments and achievements or negligible ones? To assist in interpreting the report, it would be helpful to have some training in chemical engineering and financial accounting and to be able to draw comparisons with the records of other firms. Yet these aids could hardly solve a problem. If, as the report states, the company is committed to combining corporate profit and sustainable development, what is missing is precisely this information: how the two goals have been balanced by the subject that retains an unquestioned right to do it – the company itself. A proper scrutiny of the scope of its environmental commitment would require a detailed analysis of the entire corporate policy; access to confidential information would likely be needed. Ironically, the exact meaning of the report can...

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