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Social Accountability Audits: Challenging or Defending Democratic Governance?

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Current criticisms of the role of audit in society have painted a bleak picture about its use as a regulatory tool, highlighting negative consequences for democratic governance. This paper examines social accountability audits in light of these concerns. Two case studies of social certification systems are examined in detail: Fairtrade Labelling Organizations International (FLO) and Social Accountability International (SAI). These systems are evaluated using the lenses of accountability, ownership, trust, and reflexivity before concluding that social auditing processes, if done well and situated within stakeholder-based institutions such as FLO and SAI, can aid democratic and legitimate governance processes.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: July 1, 2003

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