The Concepts of Responsibility and Accountability in the Notion of Corporate Social Responsibility
The attempt is here to elucidate the concepts of responsibility and accountability in the corporate context of voluntary regulation, “corporate social responsibility”. What is the meaning of this “responsibility” (and the related accountability)? Following one of Hart’s (1968) categories of the senses of the word, the suggestion is that it is usefully understood as “role-responsibility”: the responsibility is related to the duties and aims as taken on by the corporation in the commitments it has made through the adoption of various corporate social responsibility instruments. What the corporation could be responsible for, on the other hand, is a different question, part of the answer to which has to do with causation. An example from the field of environment, hazard, and risk (Kasperson et al. 1988, Norberg-Bohm et al. 2001) is used to illustrate. What the corporation is accountable for depends on what it is responsible for. It is suggested that it is less contestable to hold it to account for commitments which it has made, than for commitments it has not made.