Non-governmental Organizational Accountability: Talking the Talk and Walking the Walk?

Alpa Dhanani, Ciaran Connolly

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Citations (Scopus)
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Concern for NGO accountability has been intensified in recent years, following the growth in the size of NGOs and their power to influence global politics and curb the excesses of globalization. Questions have been raised about where the sector embraces the same standards of accountability that it demands from government and business. The objective of this paper is to examine one aspect of NGO accountability, its discharge through annual reporting. Using Habermas’ (1984; 1987) theory of communicative action, and specifically its validity claims, the research investigates whether NGOs use their annual reporting process to account to the host societies in which they operate or steer stakeholder actions toward their own self-interests. The results of the study indicate that efforts by organizations to account are characterized by communicative action through the provision of truthful disclosures, generally appropriate to the discharge of accountability and in a manner intended to improve their understandability. At the same time, however, some organizations exhibit strategically oriented behaviors in which the disclosure content is guided by the opportunity to present organizations in a particular light and there appears a lack of rhetor authenticity. The latter findings cast doubt on the ethical inspiration of NGOs and the values they demand from business communities, and questions arise as to why such practices exist and what lessons can be learnt from them.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)613-637
Number of pages25
JournalJournal of Business Ethics
Issue number3
Early online date30 Apr 2014
Publication statusPublished - 19 Jul 2014


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