Purpose-The purpose of this paper is to bring the concept of "meeting the gaze of the other" into conversation with the organizational accountability literature. This is done by integrating "the gaze" phenomenon with Darwall's (2006) distinction between de jure and de facto authority. In the context of accountability, only de jure accountability entails meeting the gaze of the stakeholder, in that it requires organizations to grant stakeholders the moral authority to hold them to account. Drawing on this work, this paper aims to critically examine the distinction between de jure and de facto in current organizational accountability theorizing and in practice. Design/methodology/approach-A content analysis of the "letters to the stakeholders" from the Global 100 firms' accountability/social responsibility reports. Specifically, this paper examines the frequency with which leading companies acknowledge de facto vs de jure accountability, the nature of these statements and toward which stakeholder group they are directed. Findings-Most firms acknowledge de facto accountability, but few grant de jure standing, making it more likely that firms will ignore claimants they prefer not to morally engage. De jure relationships that are acknowledged tend to be restricted to certain stakeholders such as employees, customers and shareholders. In addition, there are differences in the granting of de jure accountability across industry sectors. Social implications-This work highlights the importance of acknowledging de jure accountability when engaging with stakeholders, and importantly, it highlights how to integrate consideration for de jure accountability into theorizing on organizational accountability. This analysis suggests that acknowledging de jure accountability vis-a-vis stakeholders can lead to more positive ethical decision-making and stronger relationships. Organizations are encouraged to strengthen their ethical decision-making by granting moral standing to their stakeholders. Originality/value-Organizational accountability is typically treated as a single construct, yet de jure accountability (vs simply de facto accountability) has been linked to particularly powerful moral effects. This paper examines the critical distinction between de facto and de jure accountability. It makes a compelling case for the importance of acknowledging the gaze of organizational stakeholders.

Additional Metadata
Keywords Accountability, De facto, De jure, Ethical reporting, Moral standing, Stakeholder relation
Persistent URL dx.doi.org/10.1108/SRJ-10-2014-0140
Journal Social Responsibility Journal
Citation
Sabadoz, C. (Cameron), & McShane, L. (2016). Organizational accountability relations: De facto or de jure?. Social Responsibility Journal, 12(1), 32–53. doi:10.1108/SRJ-10-2014-0140