Transparency in the Corporate World
Have you ever wondered what goes on in the corporations providing products and services to consumers on a local and global level? Many of us haven’t, but lately, corporations have been called to practice transparency with their consumers. This transparency can take many forms and is often in the form of sharing practices, operations, finances and initiatives that might otherwise go unpublicised.
Corporations are usually ready to share their employee’s volunteer efforts, celebrity endorsements, and donations to charitable organizations. The information that is not as easy to share is corporations depletion of natural resources, unfair treatment of workers, and lack of commitment for a better world. The beauty of transparency is that it does not always allow corporations to show only the “good stuff”. Transparency shines a light on business practices that could improve as well as ones that are making great change in our world.
Transparency in Practice
So, where is the transparency handbook? None exist to my knowledge. Many corporations have taken it upon themselves to create standards of transparency and subscribe to some of the approaches in this post. There are many forms of demonstrating transparency, and, not surprisingly, the Internet plays a big role.
Corporations invest in marketing and advertisements that demonstrate their efforts in transparency, sustainability, and bettering the world in general. You can see examples of this on cable TV commercials, Netflix documentaries, social media posts and ads, and on corporations’ websites and publications. The web is perhaps the most effective way of spreading messages and examples of transparency to the average consumer.
There is a danger of greenwashing in which corporations can spin statistics, imagery, and messaging to reduce what might otherwise be a poor transparency report. We explore greenwashing in this post about product transparency. Corporations should take a multi-pronged approach to transparency, and that approach will likely include the following strategies.
A genuine and fool-proof way to practice transparency is for a corporation to get involved in its local community. Many corporations employ local workers, pay local taxes, and impact local environments in their respective locations. To contribute to local communities, corporations can offer employee volunteer hours, get involved in chambers of commerce and industry-related events. Local sustainability efforts are also prime opportunities for corporations to make a positive impact. These efforts can include improving recycling efforts, sustainability education, encouraging carpooling and public transportation.
Sponsorship & Scholarship
In a similar vein, corporations can make lasting change by contributing to education efforts locally. Corporations providing internships, scholarships, and other educational opportunities can create lifetime advocates and even employees of their corporation and its initiatives. Sponsorships also go a long way in supporting local efforts while providing marketing opportunities for the sponsoring corporation. I have seen many effective sponsorship efforts by local corporations that include sponsoring sports teams to promote physical health among employees, sponsoring a highway clean up day or Earth Day event, and many more.
Sponsorship and scholarship opportunities are great ways for corporations to show their dedication to local communities and their members. This local involvement can also set the stage for a dialogue between corporation leaders and local community members. These dialogues can form partnerships that lead to better communities and a better world.
The International Living Future Institute (ILFI) has created a transparency and responsibility standard for corporations via the Just program. Corporations can voluntarily apply to the Just program. Once accepted, they use the metrics established to show respective “ratings” in highly important areas of transparency and social responsibility. The metric theories include diversity, equity, inclusion, employee health, employee benefits, stewardship, purchasing and supply chain. These well-chosen categories cover the main areas that any consumer would want to know about a corporation.
Corporations participating in the Just program gain resources that help them improve their policies and approach to business practices and employee treatment. Additionally, corporations can improve their ratings over time with focused effort which will show on their public Just Label.
Similar to the Just program, B-Corp as an organization empowers corporations to showcase their environmental and social responsibility efforts. Corporations certified as B-Corps have the aligning purpose to use business as a force for good. The B-Corp scorecard compares corporations with similar ones to create a scorecard that tops out at 200 points. The areas B-Corp focuses on are governemance, workers, community, environment, and customers. B-Corp’s robust directory allows anyone to easily search B-Corps providing products and services in addition to providing their scorecard. There are B-Corps around the world, and the number of them is rapidly increasing. The most famous B-Corps are Patagonia and Ben & Jerry’s along with other household names and small, local businesses. It just goes to show that corporations around the world of all sizes can practice transparency and constantly improve their practices to serve an increasing consumer demand for it.
Onward to a more Transparent Future
The approaches above are some but not all of the ways corporations can be held accountable to contribute to a better world. Take a minute this week to look into some of your favorite brands and companies. Are there more ways they practice transparency? You may find that some companies don’t meet your standards for transparency, accountability, sustainability, or other factors. You can be a part of the change by supporting corporations that practice transparency and being a vocal advocate for them.
Consumers will continue to demand this transparency that helps them make responsible purchasing decisions. The future will surely hold more transparency and accountability for corporations and the individuals that lead them.