Transparency and Business in International Law — Governance between Norm and Technique

58 Pages Posted: 19 Mar 2012

See all articles by Larry Catá Backer

Larry Catá Backer

The Pennsylvania State University (University Park) – Penn State Law

Date Written: March 17, 2012


This essay considers transparency and business in international law as a matter of the dynamic tension between norm and technique in the management of systems and the masses of the population they serve. It is divided into two parts. After this Introduction, Part II critically examines transparency in international and transnational regulatory and governance regimes. It considers both hard and soft law frameworks. Section II. A considers public sources of transparency regulation, concentrating on two: the OECD framework and the recently endorsed Guiding Principles of Business and Human Rights. Sections II.B through II.D examine transparency and governance beyond the state, considering (i) hybrid governance efforts represented by the ISO and Global Compact systems (Section II.B), (ii) private third party non-corporate governance regimes represented by the GRI and third-party certification programs (Section II.C), and (iii) private corporate governance transparency regimes (Section II.D). Part III then examines transparency in action. Part III.A explores environmental disclosure by BP before and after the Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill of 2010. Section III.B examines Apple, Inc.’s transparency efforts in the context of managing the labor issues of its supply chains. Section III.C critically examines transparency as regulation and action within the framework developed in this Introduction, focusing particularly on the way in which the characteristics of transparency as norm, technique and property fundamentally shape both its character and the parameters within which reform is possible.

Keywords: multinational corporations, private international law, corporate social responsibility, transparency, ISO26000, GRI, Global Compact, Ruggie Framework, Global Compact, Apple, Inc, British Petroleum

JEL Classification: K22, L14, P45

Suggested Citation

Backer, Larry Catá, Transparency and Business in International Law — Governance between Norm and Technique (March 17, 2012). Available at SSRN: or

Larry Catá Backer (Contact Author)

The Pennsylvania State University (University Park) – Penn State Law ( email )

Lewis Katz Building
University Park, PA 16802
United States

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