Transparency: The Building Block of Sustainability

We are very well familiar with Agenda 2030 also referred to as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), but have we heard much about Agenda 2032? Agenda 2032 is the brainchild of Communicacion de Responsabilidad & Sustenabilidad Empresarial (Communication in Social Responsibility and Sustainability Enterprise); a Spanish-speaking media repository that provides journalistic and academic information on corporate social responsibility and sustainability. The document takes an anticipatory look at the future of sustainability vis a vis the UN sanctioned Sustainable Development Goals to reveal seven fundamental developmental dimensions that will shape the sustainability agenda in coming decades.

Climate change, the agenda of human rights in global value chains, fourth industrial revolution, the challenge of companies in sustainable cities, the sustainable development goals (SDGs), communication and sustainability and then transparency and corruption are the indices recognised by Agenda 2032 as the most important to the future of sustainability. Of all these seven however, transparency and corruption stand out conspicuously as the singular metric that will have the greatest effect on sustainability in coming years.

Facebook’s recent Cambridge Analytica scandal, Volkwagen’s emissions scandal, Malabu oil scandal, the Oxfam sexual exploitation scandal and the Panama papers scandal which all reveal the titanic scale of transnational bribery prevalent in our world today have pricked individuals to be less trusting and more suspicious of corporate and institutional operations. The solid trust that people once reposed in large corporate entities and government institutions has taken a sharp nosedive and people have become obstinately unforgiving of unethical practices and shady deals. Moreover, the permanence of digital evidence like pictures, video footage and audio recording has made it almost impossible for violators to refute the veracity of their misconduct while the speed of social media and instant messaging spreads such news across the globe with alacritous immediacy.

All that has been said above foregrounds the place of transparency as one of the foundational substrata upon which the thrust of corporate sustainability is anchored. To wedge the axe of sustainability deeper into their organisational strategies, corporates must make intentional commitments to ensure that their operations have an overall positive impact on all their stakeholders and the environment. Labelling their products “green”, “organic” or “halal” is not enough; consumers need to know how organisations run their supply chain system, how they treat employees, their negative environmental footprint and their contribution to community advancement. True transparency can only be achieved when corporates disclose honest, comprehensive and clear information concerning all aspects of their business to their stakeholders; internal and external.

Organisations that will remain relevant and become most prosperous are the ones that make transparency a core aspect of their business because we live in a hyperconnected world where people literally carry the whole world in their pockets and are now more likely to “google” companies before doing business with them. Besides, a report recently published by PwC and titled Workforce of the Future: The Competing Forces Shaping 2030, states that “six in ten millennials actively seek out employers that share their values” and many other studies have revealed that millennials seek more than just money and material goods from their employers as according to Interbrand, “two thirds of all US workers are happier in their jobs knowing that their employers are helping protect the environment”.

Transparency is fast becoming a corporate necessity therefore it has become utterly exigent for business leaders worldwide to lead the charge for sustainability by embracing transparency as a core agenda in all facets of their activities.