Transparency in sustainable businesses
What is worse: to take money for your own interest or lie about the fact that you took it? And to go a bit further: Is it a crime if you are the only one who knows you have committed an illegal action? Or is it considered a crime only if someone else knows about it? Similarly, in a business context, should a business report every single action (more or less legal) or should they keep some things to themselves?
These are just some of the several questions that any business needs to answer in order to create a “transparency strategy”.
In this sense, transparency is not only a communication issue, but rather a moral and ethical issue. Ethical dilemmas become even more critical in the case of sustainable businesses. Given the focus these businesses have on undertaking social and environmental matters, concepts such as transparency and authenticity become a must. In order to be successful and build brand trustworthiness, organisations need to demonstrate not just their commitment to society, but also their good behaviour, especially towards the environment, their authenticity and they need to share with the public all their practices and procedures.
At this stage, it is crucial to understand the difference between transparency and authenticity. While these two words are often perceived as synonymous, the difference is quite substantial. Transparency indicates the level of sharing while authenticity refers to the truth.
A precondition for any sustainable business, seen as “creator of wealth”, is to pursue the truth and proudly share this reality with the world. Accordingly, the fact that a business does not share its practices or procedures cannot be seen as a lack of authenticity but perhaps the result of a low transparency. Concepts such as withholding information or strategically reshaping corporate information are no longer applicable to consumers who feel they have the right to know everything. At the end of the day, it is important to remember that this is the era of social media, where everything and everyone is available with one ‘click’. However, being humans, we have hundreds of relationships, all totally different with a different level of sharing depending on who is our interlocutor.
Think about why organisations should be diverse and why they should have the same level of transparency regardless the specific audience.
© RMIT University 2017