Having recently published my annual social impact report (still the only freelance consultant on the planet to do so...) I was challenged by none other than Liam Black, one of the godfathers of social enterprise, as to why it wasn't independently audited.
And rather than get upset and start to doubt the veracity of my findings, the robustness of the methodology, (all of which I've always been very open about), it gave me pause to wonder why, after 9 years of my reporting on my social impact that no-one has ever asked me who they've been verified by before.
After a morning of tweeting each other about this, I've come to the following position given that:
1) the vast majority of financial accounts of all types of enterprise (private, social, and charitable) aren't audited, and yet we accept them willingly enough;
2) the tax office and regulatory bodies accept our returns without question or asking for them to have been independently verified and audited;
so why then, should there be a different standard applied to our social impact reports (which are subject to far less regulatory rebuke if we're found to have 'cheated' on them)?
Audits take time and energy that might be better spent elsewhere (if we can even afford them in the first place!); and I've never know any commissioner to ever not accept a social impact report on the basis that they've not been independently audited.
So - should social accounts be audited before we can have any trust in them?
No - because we take far more important and risky things on trust all the time; with regards to social accounts, as long as they're transparent and open, then surely we risk losing our trust in ourselves and erode the value of that same trust that underpins everything we do and achieve if we can't accept them on the basis of our own judgement and common sense?