Transparency is a mindset. When you’re willing to declare your goals and values publicly, you are exposing yourself to the accountability of others. That’s a courageous gesture in a corporate world where many choices are clearly made to avoid liability. The act of creating Transparency Benchmarks leads to a transparency mindset, not just for company leaders, but for the entire organization. Transparency Benchmarks are thus a giant first step toward building a culture of transparency.
The Basics of Transparency Benchmarks
So, what are Transparency Benchmarks? They are company statements that broadcast clear and measurable positions on company actions, and that meet three critical criteria:
- Publicly available.
Company actions span many relationships and values, so the scope of Transparency Benchmarks is broad. They encompass interactions with customers, suppliers and employees, as well as company stances on diversity, ethics, communications, privacy and even cultural practices.
Here’s an example. Clothing maker Patagonia publishes ‘sustainability principles’ that anyone can access, outlining working conditions, materials sourcing and all kinds of additional info about the company’s terms across its supply chain. That is a prime model of Transparency Benchmarks – written, publicly available, and above and beyond the industry norms.
Benchmarks vs. Everyday Policies: the Critical Difference
Okay, companies need policies, you might be thinking. Nope. Policies are the industry-level norm. Policies are the safe version. Policies are what regulatory bodies force a company to uphold.
In contrast, Transparency Benchmarks push the boundaries for a leadership stance and display measurable, accountable goals. They set the bar higher. If peers say they “embrace diversity,” a leader in Transparency Benchmarks says, “we aim for x% of leadership roles to be filled by candidates meeting [stated diverse criteria].”
Standing out with Transparency Benchmarks
In establishing Transparency Benchmarks, companies rally every part of their organization toward a culture of accountability and ethical leadership. This culture builds trust, which drives client retention and employee satisfaction, which ultimately improve profitability.
Despite this return on investment, Transparency Benchmarks are not the norm. In fact, they remain rare, even among larger publicly traded companies. The transparency wave is just beginning, with only a few early movers collecting the benefits. What’s more, this powerful mechanism is accessible to all. Any company, large or small, can choose to establish Transparency Benchmarks and begin to reap the returns.