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Transparency in Global Environmental GovernanceCritical Perspectives$
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Aarti Gupta and Michael Mason

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780262027410

Published to MIT Press Scholarship Online: January 2015

DOI: 10.7551/mitpress/9780262027410.001.0001

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Tamed Transparency and the Global Reporting Initiative: The Role of Information Infrastructures

Tamed Transparency and the Global Reporting Initiative: The Role of Information Infrastructures

(p.225) 10 Tamed Transparency and the Global Reporting Initiative: The Role of Information Infrastructures
Transparency in Global Environmental Governance

Dingwerth Klaus

Eichinger Margot

The MIT Press

In this chapter, Klaus Dingwerth and Margot Eichinger scrutinize the rhetoric, policies, and disclosure practices in the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), with a specific focus on the role of intermediaries in making GRI information actionable. The authors show that the GRI’s normatively demanding rhetoric on transparency does not permeate the organization’s policies and practices. Moreover, disclosed information does not permit comparison across corporate reporting entities. As a result, transparency is ‘tamed’ in this case, insofar as it fails to facilitate holding disclosers to account. However, commercial organizations and ‘for-benefit’ groups are now using GRI data to produce corporate sustainability ratings. The authors analyze the enhanced prospects for empowerment deriving from the ‘marketization of transparency’ generated by the activities of these intermediaries, who sell their corporate ratings to social investors and others at premium prices. The authors conclude that, while such a marketization of transparency can indeed make disclosed information more actionable, its emancipatory potential is reduced if such actionable disclosure is priced out of reach for most, or if it squeezes out “for-benefit” civil society intermediaries with different audiences and values.

Keywords:   Global Reporting Initiative, transparency, corporate disclosure, sustainability, information intermediaries

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