Relational transparency and the constant report : interrogating transparency & reporting practices in environmental governance

Date
2022-08-10
Authors
Harness, Delaney
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Abstract

Governance by disclosure has been the longstanding expectation for global environmental governance bodies but increases in federal regulations have caused changes to perceptions and practices of transparency. Using interviews with executive directors for the UN Global Compact and its national secretariats, the dissertation introduces a relational approach to transparency by highlighting three prominent relationship types in the network of the United Nations Global Compact. The first relationship between the UNGC to corporations can be perceived in terms of partnerism, and transparency here is practiced as embedded disclosure. The second relationship is between governments and corporations and can be perceived as co-optive; here, transparency is practiced as mandatory disclosure. The third relationship is between corporate actors, where the relationship is perceived as co-opetitive, and transparency is practiced as selective disclosure. The implications of this relational perspective of transparency include (1) transparency is understood as multidimensional, (2) transparency recursively shapes the network, and (3) transparency distorts power asymmetries. Although there is a longstanding tradition of environmental reporting among corporate actors, there are reasons to assume that environmental reporting has changed in an era of visibility. This dissertation then uses an extended case study of IKEA environmental reporting and sustainability communication practices to advance the notion of a constant report, a kind of sustained sustainability campaign where information is constant, relentless, and highly visible. I derive six characteristics of the constant report, including (1) the constant report is visible; (2) the constant report is networked; (3) the constant report is pluralistic; (4) the constant report is personalized; (5) the constant report is promotional; (6) the constant report is performative. This has important implications for digital ubiquity on environmental reporting, exploring a concept called authentic babble to denote the simultaneous authenticity and performativity that occurs within environmental reporting today.

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