The lexicon of corporate governance has ‘transparency’ as a key imperative. Yet transparency as a management principle begs explanation. It also raises several questions: transparent to whom, how and why? Who decides? Is full transparency desirable? What are its merits and benefits? What are the risks of increased transparency? The answers may lie somewhere between the shareholder and stakeholder views of the modern corporation, with the former defending shareholder-owner primacy and firm profit-maximisation, and the latter offering a values-based approach towards balancing the needs and expectations of all stakeholders. While corporate governance broadly addresses the needs of shareholders and investors, driven by the position that companies need to be better governed for stockholder value, the ‘stakeholder’ view of the corporation has gained ground over the past 20 or so years whereby the modern corporation is accountable not only to its owners, but also society.The transparency debate has emerged in parallel, and with it, issues of privacy and/or secrecy on one hand and the notion of ‘sunlight’ on the other. Transparency’s role has been variously described as the promotion of corporate disclosure and protection of the rights of minority shareholders in the information environment (Bushman & Smith, 2003); the promotion of corporate accountability and advancement of the rights of stakeholders (Clarke, 2004; Donaldson & Preston, 1995; Hess, 2007; Mallin, 2002); a tool to limit information asymmetries (Boatright, 2008; Florini, 2007a, 2007b; Hood, 2006; Lev, 1992); a means to create a level playing field through ethics and fairness (Boatright, 2008; Oliver, 2004); the promotion of market efficiency (Bessire, 2005; Heflin, Subramanyam, & Zhang, 2003); and the prevention of abuse through stakeholder activism (Bandsuch, Pate, & Thies, 2008; Roche, 2005). Aspirations aside, there is lack of consensus as to transparency's dimensions, drivers and dilemmas in corporate behaviour. Indeed, its perceived value to stakeholders and corporations alike remains questionable. In this chapter, the author discusses the governance of corporate transparency and argues that clarity and Board policy are needed to manage transparency activism and its resultant risks.
Danker, M. (2013), "Understanding Stakeholder Activism, Managing Transparency Risk", Crowther, D. and Aras, G. (Ed.) The Governance of Risk (Developments in Corporate Governance and Responsibility, Vol. 5), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 33-72. https://doi.org/10.1108/S2043-0523(2013)0000005006Download as .RIS
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