Disclosing Sustainability

The Transformative Power of Transparency?

The Environmental Policy Group (Wageningen University) organizes a conference titled "Disclosing Sustainability: The Transformative Power of Transparency?", June 24-25 2016. 

Transparency is one of the most widely touted concepts of our age. We live in an era of ever greater openness and disclosure of information, even as a push for more transparency is not discernible to the same extent everywhere and in all social settings.

The driving force of this growing call for transparency is an unwavering belief in its potential to foster more accountable, democratic and effective decision-making and action at different levels and across public and private domains. While the transparency turn is being ever more closely scrutinized in policy domains such as diplomacy, national security, human rights, or economic relations, the relationship between transparency and sustainability remains strikingly obscure.

Yet even in this realm, there remains an assumption that transparency is transformative, i.e. that greater openness and deliberative acts of information disclosure can empower those previously uninformed about the sites and sources of environmental gains or losses, and can transform practices and institutions towards sustainability. Yet does transparency live up to its sustainability promise? Does it enhance the accountability of those perpetuating environmental harm and foster improved environmental outcomes? Such questions are theoretically and empirically under-examined. This conference will address such questions for a wide array of environmental challenges and sectors.

There will be three conference streams (although we also welcome proposals on any topics that explore links between transparency and sustainability):

 1. Transparency, accountability and empowerment in global environmental governance

2. Transparency and traceability in commodity chains

3. Citizen generated (and citizen–centered) transparency

Key dates

  • Conference: 24-25th of June, 2016
  • Deadline for paper abstract submissions and panel proposals: 15 November 2015 (extended)
  • Notification of acceptance: 15 December 2015
  • Registration deadline (for paper presenters): 15 April 2016
  • Registration deadline (for non-paper presenters, i.e. those attending only): 31 May 2016


1. Individual papers:

Abstracts (300 words or less) addressing one or more of the above streams or any other topic relevant to exploring the link between transparency and sustainability can be submitted here.

2. Full panels:

Panel proposals addressing one or more of the above streams, or any other topic relevant to the main conference theme can be submitted by e-mail to conference.enp@wur.nl. Proposals must include a description of the panel (400 words or less), 4-5 abstracts (each 300 words or less), and list a chair and discussant.

We expect to produce one or more special journal issues as outputs of the conference.

Floriculture in Ethiopia. Photo by Suzan van der Schenk.

Floriculture in Ethiopia. Photo by Suzan van der Schenk.