The Morality of Transparency: A Comparison of NGOs and Business Ethics
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AbstractPaper presented at Workshop on the Sociology of Transparency, Univ. Osnabruck, Nov. 2015. Disclosure and transparency, being open so that others can look deeper into to your organization, is not just a requirement imposed by government regulations or funding agencies. Transparency is also tied to a value of authenticity, sincerity and ethics. There is moral dimension to transparency. Being open is to be good. Concealment or opacity is bad. On the other hand, there are those who say that transparency is the same as professionalism; that transparency is good for business. Here transparency is not moral but strategic. This paper explores the issue of morality and transparency using ethnographic examples from two worlds: that of NGOs who ‘do good’ and that of the burgeoning field of ‘Ethics and Compliance’ within the private business sector. The active concept of 'transparenting' is introduced. What does ‘transparenting’ entail from a moral point of view? Are being ethical, doing good and being transparent all the same thing? Has exposing ourselves to the gaze of others become a moral imperative? Can nothing be held confidential anymore?