Transparency in the profit-making world

Transparency in the profit-making world

Exploring corporate transparency

This paper examines the issue of access to corporate information and transparency in the private sector. It lays out the history and reasoning for corporate secrecy, and also addresses transparency concerns raised in particular by the privatisation of essential services. In addition to that it explores the legal regimes concerning corporate transparency.

The paper highlights two trends which are important in the debate around corporate transparency:

  • because of the massive trend toward privatisation, goods and services once provided by the state, or at least considered to be state responsibilities, are now provided by private firms under various arrangements with governments
  • there is growing awareness that the public impacts of many private sector activities (e.g., environmental impacts) warrant public scrutiny, and disclosure is increasingly seen as a potentially effective regulatory tool.

The paper argues that access to information legislation around the world has largely failed to make provision for granting access to corporate information essential to citizens. Disclosure of private-sector information is unsystematic, and there is little consensus on what business should be required to disclose. The paper concludes that the notion of being a for profit corporation should not operate as a justification for secrecy.

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