||For the past twenty years, environmental organizations have been the main force in Taiwan’s environmental movement. Meanwhile, the institutionalization of environmental organizations had placed them in a dilemma of organizational sustaining and mission pursuing. To continue its influence on public policy and environmental awareness, environmental organizations need to perform harder and better. In recent years, the government has cast environmental organizations in more roles, as well as allowed them to play a more important role in policy consulting. Many environmental organizations have thus become intermediate social institutions and should be held accountable. Moreover, since all environmental organizations have ecology as its stakeholder and many organizations are advocacy-orientated, their process performance needs to be evaluated in the accountability procedure. From a self-regulation perspective, environmental organizations should also develop behavioral norms for self-governance to earn social recognition and trust. In practice, however, laws concerning the accountability of environmental organizations or other NPOs are not well formulated.|
The intent of this study is mainly to develop an accountability framework workable for self-assessment in environmental organizations. Taking a broad perspective, accountability is here defined as “accounts for the results and process of organizational activities are provided, by which nonprofit organizations are responsive to expectations generated within and outside the organization so as to gain legitimacy in society.” Synthesizing large literature on theoretical, practical accountability and role expectancy on environmental organizations, the framework, based on institutional theory, was constructed to evaluate accountability in “regulative”, “normative”, “cognitive” and “organizational characteristics” dimensions, totally consisting of 92 items. Survey data from the leaders of environmental organizations were collected to examine the evaluative framework’s feasibility by their assessing each item’s reasonability, acceptability, practicability, and importance. As a result, 45 priority items out of 92 were selected, which identify the evaluative contents for an “accountable” environmental organization, and can be taken as a useful checklist in future to scrutinize organizations’ accountability and performance.
Moreover, additional results from in-depth interviewing environmental organizations’ leaders showed that they generally regard regulative accountability as acceptable, normative accountability as reasonable but difficult to achieve, and cognitive accountability as important in delineate organizations’ mission and identity as well as adapting themselves to the society.
Among the major findings of this studyare that environmental organizations accept their social responsibility and acknowledge the benefit of performance evaluation, but organizations and the society know little about the concept of accountability. These organizations also believed that the present social institutions and organizational conditions are unhelpful or even harmful for them to take accountability actions. These reasons incline environmental organizations to agree to more external regulation than self-regulation. In the meantime, the above situations mostly hinder launching accountability and performance evaluation in organizations. To drive self-regulation in environmental organizations, institutional building is suggested; that is to couple organizations’ performance evaluation and advancement with self-assessment by expanding knowledge on accountability among the society and making institutional incentives available.