A Social Audit Model for Agro-biotechnology Initiatives in Developing Countries: Accounting for Ethical, Social, Cultural, and Commercialization Issues

Obidimma Ezezika, Fiona Thomas, Abdallah Daar, Peter Singer


There is skepticism and resistance to innovations associated with agro-biotechnology projects, leading to the possibility of failure. The source of the skepticism is complex, but partly traceable to how local communities view genetically engineered crops, public perception on the technology’s implications, and views on the role of the private sector in public health and agriculture, especially in the developing world. We posit that a governance and management model in which ethical, social, cultural, and commercialization issues are accounted for and addressed is important in mitigating risk of project failure and improving the appropriate adoption of agro-biotechnology in sub-Saharan Africa. We introduce a social audit model, which we term Ethical, Social, Cultural and Commercialization (ESC2) auditing and which we developed based on feedback from a number of stakeholders. We lay the foundation for its importance in agro-biotechnology development projects and show how the model can be applied to projects run by Public Private Partnerships. We argue that the implementation of the audit model can help to build public trust through facilitating project accountability and transparency. The model also provides evidence on how ESC2 issues are perceived by various stakeholders, which enables project managers to effectively monitor and improve project performance. Although this model was specifically designed for agro-biotechnology initiatives, we show how it can also be applied to other development projects.


Social auditing; public-private partnerships; agro-biotechnology; environmental accounting.

Full Text:

PDF [en]


Demonstration Community-Based Social Audit of Health Services in two Districts of Afghanistan 2008, Available: http://www.idrc.ca/geh/ev-129438-201-1-DO_TOPIC.html (2009, July 16).

World development report 2008: agriculture for development. 2007, World Bank, Washington, D.C.

Bioindustry ethics, (2005). Elsevier Academic Press, Boston, Mass.

Perspectives on corporate citizenship, ( 2001). Greenleaf, Sheffield.

The co-operative Sustainability Report: Altogether Different and Making a Difference.

Social Accounting: FTSE4Good Index Series. Available: http://www.bized.co.uk/learn/accounting/management/social/ftse.htm (2009, July/20).

Abt Associates, I. (1976). Annual Report and Social Audit.

Audit Commission (2003). The LHT Group: Inspection Report, UK.

BOKOR, R.K. (2004). Resistance to Genetic Engineering in Africa, Synthesis/Regeneration: A Magazine of Green Social Thought.

CHASSY, B.M. (2007). The history and future of GMOs in food and agriculture. Cereal Foods World, vol. 52, no. 4, pp. 169-172.

COUPLAND, C. (2006). Corporate social and environmental responsibility in web-based reports: Currency in the banking sector?. Critical Perspectives on Accounting, vol. 17, no. 7, pp. 865-881.

DAWSON, E. (1998). The Relevance of Social Audit for Oxfam GB. Journal of Business Ethics, vol. 17, no. 13, Social and Ethical Accounting, Auditing and Reporting, pp. 1457-1469.

DEY, C. (2007). Social accounting at Traidcraft plc. Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, vol. 20, no. 3, pp. 423-445.

DOVE, A. (1998). Genetics research on the town hall agenda, courtesy of ELSI. Nature medicine, vol. 4, no. 5, pp. 541.

EBRAHIM, A. (2003). Accountability in Practice: Mechanisms for NGOs. World Development, vol. 31, no. 5, pp. 813-829.

EDELMAN (2009). Edelman Trust Barometer: The Tenth Global Opinion Leaders Study.

EICHER, C.K., Maredia, K., Sithole-Niang, I. "Crop biotechnology and the African farmer", Food Policy, vol. 31, no. 6, pp. 504-527.

ETC Group (2008). Who Owns Nature? Corporate Power and the Final Frontier in the Commodification of Life.

FTSE 2008, FTSE4Good Index Series. http://www.ftse.com/ Indices/FTSE4Good_Index_Series/index.jsp (2009, July/20).

GAO, S.S., Zhang, J.J. (2006). Stakeholder engagement, social auditing and corporate sustainability. Business Process Management Journal, vol. 12, no. 6, pp. 722-740.

HARVEY, B. (1995). Ethical Banking: The Case of the Co-operative Bank. Journal of Business Ethics, vol. 14, no. 12, pp. 1005-1013.

HENRIQUES, A. (2000). Social audit & quality. Quality Focus, vol. 4, no. 2, pp. 60-64.

JOHNSON, H.H. (2001). Corporate Social Audits - This Time Around. Business Horizons, vol. 44, no. 3, pp. 29-36.

JORDAN, M.C. (2002). The Privatization of Food: Corporate Control of Biotechnology. Agronomy Journal, vol. 92, no. 4, pp. 803-806.

MAHARAJ, D. (2002). Zambia Rejects Gene-Altered U.S. Corn, Eddy W. Hartenstein.

MANDA, O. (2003). Controversy rages over 'GM' food aid. Africa Recovery, vol. 16, no. 4, pp. 5.

MESLIN, E.M., Thomson, E.J., Boyer, J.T. (1997). The Ethical, Legal, and Social Implications Research Program at the National Human Genome Research Institute. Kennedy Institute of Ethics journal, vol. 7, no. 3, pp. 291-298.

Nuffield Council on Bioethics (2004). The Use of Genetically Modified Crops in Developing Countries.

O'DWYER, B. (2005). The construction of a social account: a case study in an overseas aid agency. Accounting, Organizations and Society, vol. 30, no. 3, pp. 279-296.

OGBU, O.M., Banji, O.O., Mlawa, H.M. [eds] (1995). Technology Policy and Practice in Africa, International Development Research Centre.

PEARCE, J., Kay, A. (2005). Social Accounting and Audit: The Manual, Social Audit Network.

RAYNARD, P. (1998). Coming Together. A Review of Contemporary Approaches to Social Accounting, Auditing and Reporting in Non-profit Organisations. Journal of Business Ethics, vol. 17, pp. 1471-1479.

REBERNAK, K. (2006). June 20 2006-last update, Merck's 2005 corporate responsibility report: When caution curtails innovation [Homepage of Ethical Corporation], [Online]. http://www.ethicalcorp.com/content.asp?ContentID=4329

ROUSSEAU, D.M., Sitkin, S.B., Burt, R.S., Camerer, C. (1998). Not so Different After All: a Cross-Discipline View of Trust. Academy of Management Review, vol. 23, no. 3, pp. 393-404.

SINGER, P.A., Taylor, A.D., Daar, A.S., Upshur, R.E.G., Singh, J.A., Lavery, J.V. (2007). "Grand Challenges in Global Health: the ethical, social and cultural program.(Policy Forum)", PloS Medicine, [Online], vol. 4, no. 9, pp. 1440(5). http://www.plosmedicine.org/article/info:doi/10.1371/journal.pmed.0040265

The Co-Operative Financial Services, Why we have ethical policies. Available: http://www.goodwithmoney.co.uk/why-do-we-need-ethical-policies/ (2009, July/21).

VARZAKAS, T.H., Arvanitoyannis, I.S., Baltas, H. (2007). The politics and science behind GMO acceptance. Critical reviews in food science and nutrition, vol. 47, no. 4, pp. 335-361.

YIN, R.K. (2009). Case study research: design and methods, 4th ed. edn, Sage Publications, Los Angeles, Calif.

ZADEK, S., Raynard, P. (1995). Accounting works: a comparative review of contemporary approaches to social and ethical accounting. Accounting Forum, vol. 19, no. 2/3, pp. 164-175.

ZADEK, S. (2004). The Path to Corporate Responsibility. Harvard business review, vol. 82, no. 12, pp. 125-132.

ZHANG, J., Fraser, I., Hill, W.Y. (2003). A comparative study of social audit models and reports. In, J. Andriof, S. Waddock, B. Husted, S. Sutherland Rahman, eds. Unfolding Stakeholder Thinking: Relationships, Communication, Reporting and Performance, 2nd edn, Greenleaf Publishing, pp. 244-266.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.4067/S0718-27242009000300003

Copyright (c) 2009 Journal of Technology Management & Innovation

2019 © Universidad Alberto Hurtado - Facultad de Economía y Negocios. 
Erasmo Escala 1835 - Santiago, Chile.
Economic Analysis Review | Observatorio Económico | Gestión y Tendencias 

Journal Supported by