CEVI-WP 04-01

Whistleblowing As A Transparency Tool
Wim Vandekerckhove
September 2004


Transparency in an organizational context can be defined as the ability to know what and how decisions are being made within organizations and implemented. In the specific context of corporate social responsibility, it refers to a transparency of organizational decision making and implementation towards external actors -- stakeholders. In the context of corporate governance, it is the transparency of organizational decision making and implementation for internal actors – employees, boards, shareholders.

Access to information is critical for transparency. Therefore, transparency measures are to a large extent sets of rules on what information, under what form and measured in what way, ought to be reported to whom. In this sense, transparency mechanisms represent the functioning of an organization and its practices in a specific and selective way. Hence, these mechanisms can be critically examined in terms of adequacy of their selective representational abilities, or guarantees to the correctness of the information generated through them.

In this paper, we propose the potential of whistleblowing as a transparency tool, more precisely as complementing the ‘reporting along standards’ approach to transparency. We propose two rationales for whistleblowing, one in the context of corporate social responsibility and one in the context of corporate governance. In these, we also mention necessary assumptions and possible risks of whistleblowing. Finally, we discuss how the recent whistleblowing legislation in the UK (Public Interest Disclosure Act) neutralizes those risks.

Download paper