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Contributor(s): Ivy Wigmore

Accountability is an assurance that an individual or an organization will be evaluated on their performance or behavior related to something for which they are responsible.

The term is related to responsibility but seen more from the perspective of oversight. An employee may be responsible, for example, for ensuring that a response to an RFP (request for proposals) meets all the stipulated requirements. In the event that the task is not performed satisfactorily, there may or may not be consequences. Accountability, on the other hand, means that the employee is held responsible for successfully completing the task and will have to at least explain why they failed to do so.

Corporate accountability involves being answerable to all an organization’s stakeholders for all actions and results.  Through performance and accountability reporting (PAR), for example, an organization compiles and documents factors that quantify its profitability, efficiency and adherence to budget, comparing actual results against original targets. The PAR process is usually carried out once per fiscal year, although in some cases it is done more often.

Corporate accountability also implies that an organization must be answerable for any deviations from its stated goals and values, which might be documented and made publicly available through a mission statement or vision statement. Beyond that, the concept of corporate accountability is often broadened to imply a requirement for business to follow ethical, responsible and sustainable practices.

Accountability and transparency are generally considered the two main pillars of good corporate governance.

This was last updated in November 2014

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