Development of Norms Through Compliance Disclosure

Journal of Business Ethics 106 (1):73-87 (2012)
This article introduces compliance disclosure regimes to business ethics research. Compliance disclosure is a relatively recent regulatory technique whereby companies are obliged to disclose the extent to which they comply with codes, ‘best practice standards’ or other extra-legal texts containing norms or prospective norms. Such ‘compliance disclosure’ obligations are often presented as flexible regulatory alternatives to substantive, command-and-control regulation. However, based on a report on experiences of existing compliance disclosure obligations, this article will identify major weaknesses that prevent them from becoming effective mechanisms to discipline a certain type of behaviour. It will be argued that regulatory recourse to compliance disclosure obligations is nonetheless worthwhile if we view them as mechanisms that can initiate a dialogue about norm interpretation, application and norm desirability. From this perspective, compliance disclosure obligations serve less to discipline companies by making corporate practices transparent, and more to trigger a process of norm development, in which the law, companies and their stakeholders interact. This article provides an illustration of how mandatory disclosure, if it is restricted to a unilateral communication process, may produce no effective results (or even prove counterproductive), whilst highlighting the alternative potential of disclosure as an initiator of dialogue, supported by laws, geared towards the development and refinement of norms applicable to business in a global context and the values they promote.
Keywords Disclosure  Norms  Transparency  Compliance  Globalization
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DOI 10.1007/s10551-011-1055-y
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Cynthia Clark Williams (2007). Influences on the Scope of Corporate Disclosure Programs. Proceedings of the International Association for Business and Society 18:118-120.

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