The (In)effectiveness of Voluntarily Produced Transparency Reports
Christopher Parsons. 2017. "The (In)effectiveness of Voluntarily Produced Transparency Reports," Business & Society, DOI: 10.1177/0007650317717957
23 Pages Posted: 22 Jun 2016 Last revised: 18 Jul 2017
Date Written: June 21, 2016
This article analyzes the relative effectiveness and limitations of companies’ voluntarily produced transparency reports in promoting change in firm and government behavior. Such reports are published by telecommunications companies and disclose how often and on what grounds government agencies compel customer data from these companies. These reports expose corporate behaviors while simultaneously lifting the veil of governmental secrecy surrounding these kinds of compulsions. Fung, Graham, and Weil’s ‘targeted transparency’ model is used to evaluate the extent to which these reports effect behavior. From the analysis, it is evident that telecommunications companies’ transparency reports are only partially effective; while firms may modify their reports to present more information, these reports do not necessarily induce government to more broadly revealing its own activities. The article ultimately suggests that voluntarily produced transparency reports may become more comparable to one another as a result of either corporate reports evolving in consultation with external stakeholders or following a crisis that prompts government or industry to adopt a given standard. Such standards may positively influence the effectiveness of reports while, at the same time, concealing as much about firm behaviors as they purport to reveal.
Keywords: Telecommunications, transparency, law enforcement, public policy, corporate sustainability reporting, standardization
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