Purpose – Responsibility and accountability are central to much of what managers do, but in the literature these complex social science concepts are confused. The paper aims to bring theoretical rigour, structure, consistency and parsimony to this field, using as an example the subcategories of responsibility referred to as corporate social responsibility (CSR) and global responsibility. Design/methodology/approach – This conceptual paper analyses and identifies overlaps, redundancies, gaps, limitations and flaws in current constructs of responsibility and accountability. Using this as a base, we propose a responsibility and accountability matrix comprised of eight constructs, which in turn underpin a process model in which responsibility precedes accountability. Findings – The eight constructs are shown to be sufficient and necessary to explain: the nature of the obligation that one party has to another (role, legal, ethical and moral responsibility); the responsibilities and accountabilities that arise from decisions, actions and behaviours (causal, judged and felt responsibility; external and felt accountability); and how these responsibilities differ from constructs that define the ambit of responsibility (personal, team, corporate, social and global responsibility). This then forms the basis of a proposed generic process model of responsibility and accountability that shows how the discrete and sequential stages of the process typically unfold, and how the responsibility and accountability constructs proposed above relate to each other and to the various process stages. It argues that concepts of CSR and global responsibility, poorly defined both in practice and in the literature, can be better understood when these eight constructs are applied to them. Practical implications – To underscore the practical implications of the theory, it shows, by reference to the model, how CSR and global responsibility can play out in the case of banks. However, being a generic model, it extends to many other applications in management and the social sciences. Originality/value – The proposed model is highly original, clarifying, augmenting, categorising and integrating concepts of accountability and responsibility. The paper is also original in providing a framework for reducing CSR and global responsibility to their constituent first-order constructs.