Mahatma Gandhi said it best when he said, “you must be the change you want to see in the world.” This is one way to explain public accountability. Officially, it is the responsibility of corporations, public officials and those in power, to justify their conduct to the general public while using accountability mechanisms. Public or social accountability is described as when the citizens hold government agencies or corporations accountable.

Examples of public accountability aren’t in shortage. From oil companies being held responsible for their processes to ensure there are no oil spills to pharmaceutical companies disclosing adverse affects in medications to loggers reseeding areas that have been cut down in order to replenish the forests for future generations. They maintain public accountability by also ensuring that their actions won’t adversely affect communities or the environment. If there are problems, they are quick to respond as part of accountability.

Oil companies clean up the spills but their responsibility doesn’t stop there. By setting up a public accounts committee to implement programs that will benefit the environment for the citizens of that area are methods used to ensure they are acting in a way that is responsible for the general public.

And finally, the government is held accountable publicly when authorizing a war or enacting a law such as the “No Child Left Behind Act.” The public holds each and every one of these publicly accountable.

There are different levels of public accountability as it relates to the entity being held accountable; public or private sector. When a company is held publicly accountable, they may not be held to the same standards as the government. The public could easily turn against an oil company that has forced thousands out of work but support our government taking us into another war but the public still holds all parties accountable, just on different levels.