In PR we talk a lot about transparency: when pitching reporters make it clear who you represent and why you are writing. In fact, transparency has become one of my golden rules these days in general, and I think it's something that needs greater priority in the world at large. For example (in no particular order of importance or relevance to one another): the Bernie Madoff scandal, food fraud, and most recently, the Hadley Climate Center saga. The Hadley Climate Center saga is really what inspired this post.
According to the Wall Street Journal and other sources, the Hadley Climate Research Unit in Britain was hacked last week and thousands of sensitive documents, including emails from climate scientists dating back a decade, were posted online. The aftermath: the emails and documents that were leaked indicate that scientists may be "manipulating computer climate modeling data and research reports to support the theory that man-made greenhouse gases are causing global warming." See full article here from Environmental Leader.
So what does this teach us? Well, some may argue that the most important lesson here is that we need to be more careful with sensitive data and continue to tighten security to prevent cyber crime. However, another lesson to consider is the transparency challenge. Whether we're talking about climate change data, food nutrition labels, or information on financial investments, industries across the board lack standard systems and procedures for documenting their calculations and transactions. Let's zero in on the climate issue. As carbon counting and energy efficiency tracking continues, businesses need to be accountable for the improvements they claim to make, scientists need to demonstrate the sources of their calculation, and consumers, investors and other stakeholders need to know how to interpret the data and where to find it.
Solving the transparency challenge is a tall order, but if more organizations start to talk about it and demonstrate how they support their claims, perhaps industries as a whole can start to make progress. What practices have you come across for improving transparency and accountability that seem to be working? I'd love to hear your thoughts.
Contributed by Susan Wise. Follow her @swise