A social audit is a type of structured evaluation of how well a business is doing in terms of setting and following through with activities that are considered socially responsible. The scope of activities that are subject to the audit process can include the efforts of the business to reduce emissions and limit the operations impact on the environment, the involvement of the business in supporting various types of charitable organizations, and even what type of work culture is created and maintained in the workplace. Unlike other types of audits, the social audit is a voluntary evaluation that company owners choose to undergo in hopes of better understanding how well the business is fulfilling its commitment to functioning as a socially responsible entity.
In order to conduct a social audit, it is necessary to establish some type of basic criteria that can be used to assess the activities of the company. When the purpose of the audit is to evaluate current activities as a means of developing a structured corporate social responsibility strategy, the auditor will often utilize standards set by similar companies in the same industry, or at least companies of similar size in the general area. This particular form of social auditing is ideal when business owners have determined that the company needs to engage in community investing on several levels, including creating a working environment that entices qualified candidates and motivates employees to remain with the business for a number of years.
When the purpose of the social audit is to assess how well a company is complying with goals previously identified by company owners, the focus is on determining how the business has met those goals, which ones still need further work, and providing suggestions on how to enhance the effort overall. In this instance, the social audit makes it possible to track improvements made since the last audit, inspire ideas on how to restructure current initiatives to better advantage, and possibly even serve as the springboard for adding new goals and practices to those that are already in place. From this perspective, the audit can be seen as a tool that is used to progressively make the business a more responsible corporate citizen.
A social audit may be conducted in-house, using human resource and other personnel on a team assembled for the purpose of monitoring and assessing the level of corporate responsibility. There are also consultants who can evaluate the social programs implemented by a company, assess the level of success, and provide practical suggestions for making improvements. While still an emerging concept in a number of industries, the findings of a social audit can open the door for improving relations with the local community as well as creating a work environment that allows for happier employees and a higher level of productivity.