Providing information on their social responsibility and environmental protection activities is an integral part of today's companies' public relations endeavours. There are many contemporary scientific, political and corporate initiatives in place that aim at developing methods to quantify the impact of corporate performance on society and the environment. In research and among corporate practitioners, a picture is widespread according to which companies in Germany started social and environmental accounting in the late 1990s following the example of Anglo-American companies. First of all, this thesis questions the common opinion that this development began only at the end of the previous century by examining the historical roots of German companies' social accounting and reporting throughout the twentieth century. This is done in a quantitative way, by analysing the proportions of social and environmental subject matters in corporate reporting in Germany, as well as in a qualitative way by means of a case study. The case study focuses on the social reporting and accounting policy of six companies operating in West Germany in the 1970s and highlights the socio-economic conditions and motivation for these companies to adopt social accounting as a strategy to answer public pressure. Secondly, the historical analysis also helps to scrutinise the assumption of a strong and unilateral influence of Anglo-American concepts and practices in social and environmental accounting. Thirdly, the thesis lays emphasis on the technique of quantification and reveals companies' motives to seek advice from scientific experts as an approach to problem solving that became prevalent since the 1970s and that characterises a knowledge-based society.