The “Big Four” — Ernst & Young, KPMG, Deloitte and PricewaterhouseCoopers — are planning to take an active role in that effort.

PwC and Deloitte are already working with several Russian companies, while Ernst & Young and KPMG are developing service packages for future clients.

The authorities, who are closely monitoring the extent of local companies’ “social responsibility,” are helping the auditors expand their operations, said Harry Black, partner at KPMG.

“For many Russian businessmen the issue of social accountability is on the agenda,” Ernst & Young said in a statement.

Boris Veselov, a senior manager at Deloitte, said his company launched a separate social responsibility division after a request from a client.

The consulting firms refused to disclose their prices for Russian clients. But according to one businessman planning to use their services, a social report for a large factory was priced at $100,000.

As long as the state continues forcing domestic companies to become socially accountable, there will be demand for the services of international auditors, Veselov said. But so far this type of consulting has been very difficult for Western auditors.

Some Russian top managers think that social accountability is nothing but a PR ploy — or that it should be limited to charity or simply paying all taxes, said Stanley Root, partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers.

“For Western investors, the fixation on charity is not the same as corporate social responsibility, since it will not lead to capitalization growth,” Veselov said.

Representatives of SUAL and Severstal, however, said they are currently considering hiring a “Big Four” consultant to prepare their social reports. Companies like Norilsk Nickel are already doing so.

“PwC audited our social report for 2003 and the first half of 2004,” said Olga Golodets, Norilsk’s deputy general director.

“One of the advantages of such cooperation are their suggestions on how to bring our social policy in line with international norms and regulations.”