Five tips for getting corporate transparency right

Jul 13, 2017

Corporate transparency can be an important asset to an organization’s social responsibility practices because it proves that you practice what you preach. In addition, a better insight into how your company works can be reassuring for prospective employees and investors – it projects an image of a fearless, self-confident organization that has no trouble showing what it believes in. While this sounds very nice in theory, attaining transparency is not always easy, and it may even backfire if it is approached the wrong way. To do it right, you will need a combination of culture and technology.

Here are five steps to get along the way:

1. See the possibilities

The technology to become a more transparent company is already here. There is no need to reinvent the wheel. Modern ERP systems can help companies achieve a ‘single source of truth’, i.e. a chain of data where there is no room for ambiguities, conflicting information and errors are reduced to a minimum through automation.

While the reason most companies invest in systems that provide a ‘single source of truth’ are practical and financial rather than aspirational, there is no harm in being ambitious when it comes down to ethics. For instance, if you can prove to your customers your goods and products are ethically sourced, that’s a big plus in the branding department. On top of that, it fundamentally contributes to the sustainability of your company’s business model.

2. Make others see what’s possible

An initiative to create more transparency will likely fail if no one but you sees the advantages. The biggest reasons why transparency benefits a company may vary from employee to employee. The finance department may be reluctant to disclose information to co-workers about the company’s cash flows, but could come on board once they realize that one traceable source of truth makes accounting much easier.

Similarly, the legal department may see no advantage to sharing information of any kind beyond the bare necessities, but might come around if they learn transparent data makes it much easier to be compliant with regulation. Compliance is often treated as a necessary evil, but transparency can turn it into an asset: crystal-clear compliance shows the world your company has its business in order.

We can extrapolate this to other departments within a company, but when you look at transparency outside the borders of one company a lot of groundbreaking advantages come into play, such as end-to-end supply chain visibility that guarantees product provenance and quality for all participants.

This cross company supply chain transparency is probably the single most critical enabler for a real supply chain orchestration in which companies can structurally increase their efficiency by increased collaboration in sourcing, transportation, planning and even development of new products and services.

3. Gauge the impact on everyday work

Transparency changes the way some people will work and it will change things in the organization’s culture. Comparatively speaking, introducing new technology is the easy part. Changing old habits (“but this works for me just fine!”) or moving people to new roles (“do I need to communicate about this?”) is harder to pull off.

This is why it’s crucial to make buy-in for greater transparency as large as possible. People not only have to see how it will benefit them and the company, they will also need to be prepared for changes in their habits, processes and thought patterns. New processes only work if people use them. Otherwise you’ve just bought an expensive car no one can (or wants to) drive.

4. Drive the culture change

Ethical sourcing of components or raw materials, for instance, isn’t just window dressing aided by technology. The values behind the process have to be lived to be believed. For some, this will be a welcome change – few people desire to do harm to the environment, for example. For others, it will take some convincing.

A culture change program raises awareness, shows co-workers how everything we do in our workflow impacts other colleagues, and ultimately, the world itself. Transparent data flows can highlight these links and broaden the horizons of the company. Sales suddenly realizes their results help a local farmer in another continent send their children to school, while HR understands the impact of ethical branding marketing when looking for new hires.

5. Realize it takes time

Rome wasn’t built in a day. Consistence, patience and realism are key in implementing transparency. But with the right KPIs, the effect becomes noticeable over time, and the advantages become more and more obvious.

The countdown to the future

On June 13, we started the countdown to the future. During this unique event, we focused on how companies can  leverage on real time data to grow to right time companies. Wouldn’t it be great if you could look back from the future and be satisfied with the path you are following right now? 

In this blog series, you will find out how to build solid foundations today, and learn how the decisions you are currently making can lead to success.



  • Pieter Hebben: You can connect with Pieter on LinkedIn
  • Nicolas Maes: You can follow Nicolas on Twitter or connect with him on LinkedIn