Introductory material to socio-environmental auditing (SEA)

Socio-environmental auditing (SEA) is the systematic, documented, periodic and objective evaluation of how well organisations are performing with respect to their impact in society and the environment. It complements the economic balance by measuring the sustainability of the organisation and reporting on their responsible actions. This assessment can serve the purposes of communication (e.g. marketing), comparison (e.g. responsible consumerism) and continuous improvement (e.g. reengineering an organisation to be more sustainable). It can be applied to individuals, companies, municipalities or countries. There exist many proposals for socio-environmental auditing, ranging from international standards to local initiatives or responsible enterprise networks.
These readings and webpages present the domain of SEA and several relevant stakeholders. If you are a Utrecht University student, you should have access to the papers from the UU network or through the UU Google Scholar Proxy. If you cannot access one in particular, let me know and I’ll send you the PDF.

Introductions to SEA

  • Tilt (2009) Corporate responsibility, accounting and accountants. Springer (link)
  • Pahuja (2013) Environmental audit. In Encyclopedia of corporate social responsibility. Springer (link)
  • Bebbington, Unerman & O’Dwyer (2014) Introduction to sustainability accounting and accountability. In Sustainability accounting and accountability. Routledge
  • Searcy (2009) Corporate sustainability performance measurement systems, a review and research agenda. Journal of Business Ethics 107(3): 239-253 (link)
  • Gray (2000) Current developments and trends in social and environmental auditing, reporting and attestation: a review and comment. Int. J. Audit. 4: 247-268 (link) Note: this paper is more advanced than the previous ones, so I recommend reading it once the concepts are clearer in your mind.
  • Ballesteros & del Río (2003) La auditoria social y la economía solidaria. REAS (in Spanish, link)

Repositories of SEA reports

SEA reports are also known as sustainability reports or corporate responsibility reports. These are some repositories for such reports.

Stakeholders and methods

Economy for the Common Good (ECG)

It is a movement and a network of enterprises that fosters an economic system which places the common good at the center of all economic activity. ECG has defined a method for SEA, whose core is the Common Good Matrix, a framework of business ethics values and indicators to measure the compliance. The auditing produces a report with the measurements and a set of improvement actions. The current tool support consists of an Excel sheet and a Word template. (the Dutch working group)
An example report:

REAS Red de Redes

REAS stands for Network of Networks of Social and Alternative Economy. It is a network of enterprises (companies, foundations, NGOs, etc) that adhere to a manifesto of social and solidarity economy principles. REAS has defined a method for SEA that all members conduct regularly, using it for self-assessment, continuous improvement and public reporting. The method has three variants and they have three different web-based tools to support them. (one of the tools, ask me for a demo account) (Spanish) (one of the methods, in Spanish and Catalan) and its tool

Social Enterprise NL 

A Dutch network of around 300 social enterprises (some examples: Triodos, Tony’s Chocolonely, Fairphone). As far as I know they have not developed or prescribed a method for SEA, but perhaps in the future…