[In Swedish: Det (o)möjliga oberoendet – ackreditering som granskningspraktik]

Organizations that audit other organizations play a crucial role in the "audit society" – they are supposed to contribute to increasing the transparency of organizations that we cannot fully trust. For auditors, independence from those being audited is seen as fundamental, but due to the widespread notion that organizations cannot be trusted, also auditing organizations such as auditing firms, certification and accreditation organizations may be mistrusted for prioritising self-interests. Thus it is no trivial task to convince relevant stakeholders that an auditing organization is independent, leading us to pose the following research question: How is independence socially constructed in various auditing contexts and how can differences and similarities be explained? The project departs from the thesis that to create independence the organization becomes dependent on other organizations that assure its independence.

Data from different auditing contexts are collected but with a specific focus on accreditation auditing – a second-order auditing conducted on certification organizations. More specifically, through interviews, document studies and participant observations of industry meetings, critical incidents (e.g. scandals, challenges, legitimacy crises) will be studied including how such incidents have been managed within the studied practices in the US and Europe. For the analysis, the findings will be compared with studies made of financial auditing and certification in order to develop a typology of organizational principles used to construct independence, and to explain why and when they are used. The research contributes to literature on the audit society and to organization theory on organization outside and among organizations.

Running from 2017 to 2020 with funding from Handelsbankens Forskningsstiftelser, the project is directed by Kristina Tamm Hallström and also includes Nils Brunsson, Ingrid Gustafsson and Cecilia Fredriksson.