Edited by Magnus Boström and Christina Garsten
Chapter 13: The Antinomy of Accountability
13. The antinomy of accountability 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...
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