Filling Empty Vessels: Accountability and Responsibility in Management and Corporate Governance

24 Pages Posted: 4 May 2023

See all articles by Donald Nordberg

Donald Nordberg

Milestones Trust; Bournemouth University - Business School

Date Written: April 2023


Accountability and responsibility are terms with deep resonance in the field of corporate affairs, where their often-confused meanings both inform our thinking and prevent understanding. Each has normative implications for the practice of corporate governance, and yet each, like an empty vessel, leaves practitioners with an unhappy sense of knowing they have a use but not knowing what to do with them. This essay explores both concepts through lenses of philosophy, literary writing, and management studies to show how in their flux they overlap and diverge. It concludes with an attempt to clarify these muddy waters by speculating on how their ambiguity demands reflexive, thoughtful action and interaction between the parties in absence of clear hierarchy of command or greater authority. How meaningful that interaction is questionable, when the words are so full of meanings without an iterative process of understanding. Insofar as these concepts reflect abilities, they represent our ability to embrace their ambiguity and just be – accountable and responsible.

Keywords: accountability, corporate governance, corporate social responsibility, codes of conduct, ethics, responsibility

JEL Classification: M1, M14, M40

Suggested Citation

Nordberg, Donald, Filling Empty Vessels: Accountability and Responsibility in Management and Corporate Governance (April 2023). Available at SSRN: or

Donald Nordberg (Contact Author)

Milestones Trust ( email )

Eclipse Office Park
High Street, Staple Hill
Bristol, BH16 5EL
United Kingdom

Bournemouth University - Business School ( email )

Talbot Campus
Poole, BH12 5BB
United Kingdom


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