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Does Transparency Mean Corporations Can Reform Themselves Without Changing? Thoughts From The Shel Holtz Dinner

I got into an interesting debate at last night’s Third Tuesday Toronto meetup with Shel Holtz.

Specifically, the theme of the night was business transparency, and how in a post-digital world, companies can’t afford to operate with opacity any longer.

That caused one of my table mates to bring up a story that caused a lively, if not heated, debate.

Apparently,  a spokesman from a large tobacco company spoke at last years’ CPRS national conference.   He admitted Big Tobacco had made mistakes in the past, but that they were ready to create true two-way dialogue with the public.

My table mate played devil’s advocate, and said that as long as companies admit to wrongdoing, the public will forgive them and trust them anew-even tobacco companies.

Naturally, the discussion that followed was far from neutral.

I know the point of business transparency is that companies shouldn’t have anything they want to hide anyways.

But maybe if companies actually acknowledge the elephants in their boardrooms,  it will establish a greater level of trust.

Perhaps, say,  the public will let Wal-Mart off the hook if it admits why it doesn’t like employing retail workers full-time.

Either that, or using a transparent business model could be the corporate equivalent of giving yourself enough rope to hang yourself with.

Since companies really don’t have a choice but to be transparent,   I think most should go for it, own it, and hopefully reap the rewards.

Can  companies with  bad reputations  reform themselves without changing- all by being transparent?

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