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Transparency, accountability and empowerment in sustainability governance: a conceptual review

Mason, Michael ORCID: 0000-0002-8831-0593 (2020) Transparency, accountability and empowerment in sustainability governance: a conceptual review. Journal of Environmental Policy and Planning, 22 (1). 98 - 111. ISSN 1523-908X

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Identification Number: 10.1080/1523908X.2019.1661231


This paper offers a conceptual examination of the power-effects of transparency, as information disclosure, on those making accountability claims against actors deemed to be causing significant environmental harm. Informed by Lukes’s ([2005]. Power: A radical view (second edition). Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.) multi-dimensional theory of power, I review recent scholarship to interrogate four hypotheses positing empowerment for accountability claimants arising from the disclosure of sustainability information. Across public and private governance forms, academic research suggests that information disclosure promotes the communication of the sustainability interests of affected parties, and in some cases enhances the capacity of these parties to evaluate justifications provided by relevant power-wielders. However, evidence is weaker that disclosure of sustainability information empowers accountability claimants to sanction or otherwise steer those responsible; and there is little support that transparency fosters wider political interrogation of the configurations of authority producing environmental harm. Differentiating between behavioural and non-behavioural understandings of power allows an evaluation of these research findings on the power-related effects of information disclosure.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2019 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group
Divisions: Geography & Environment
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GE Environmental Sciences
H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
Date Deposited: 21 May 2019 15:12
Last Modified: 16 May 2024 02:44

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