Here are some definitions of social audit that might be helpful to understand the process :
'Social Audit is a method for organisations to plan, manage and measure non-financial activities and to monitor both the internal and external consequences of the organisation's social and commercial operations.'
Source: Social Audit Toolkit (1997) Freer Spreckley, Social Enterprise Partnership
'Social Auditing is a process which, enables organisations and agencies to assess and demonstrate their social, community and environmental benefits and limitations. It is a way to measure the extent to which an organisation lives up to the shared values and objectives it has committed itself to promote.'
Source: Social Economy Agency for Northern Ireland
'Social auditing is the process whereby an organisation can account for its social performance, report on and improve that performance. It assesses the social impact and ethical behaviour of an organisation in relation to its aims and those of its stakeholders.'
Source: New Economics Foundation
SAA is a framework which allows an organization to build on existing documentation and reporting and develop a process whereby it can account for its social performance, report on that performance and draw up an action plan to improve, through which it can understand its impact on the community and be accountable to its key stakeholders.
Simply put, Social Accounting systems analyze the Social, Economic and Environmental impact of an organization and report upon it. This report is then presented to and verified by a representative Social Audit Panel, which then certifies the social accounts.
Most importantly the framework allows an organisation to work through, step by step, the three ingredients which are key to any social accounting system:
- What are the Values which underpin the way the organisation behaves? which fundamentally influence both what it does and how?
- What are the Objectives? And what does the organisation do in order to achieve these objectives?
- Who are the people whom the organisation seeks to affect? And, who are those who also happen to be affected by what the organisation does? And, who are capable of affecting it?