LIVE BLOG: Transparency and business - pros and cons, impacts and issues

We’re live blogging from this page on our Ethical Insights breakfast debate on transparency in business. The blog will be presented as a series of snapshots from the discussion over the 1 1/2 hours of the debate. We hope you will find it invigorating and useful. And our panellists are Helen McTaggart, Ethical Trade Manager, Marks & Spencer; Anne Lindsay, Lead Analyst - Private Sector, CAFOD; Stephen Russell, International Policy Officer, TUC; Clive Baldwin, Senior Legal Advisor, Human Rights Watch.

10:00: Our blog has now ended. Thanks to all who attended and followed on social media.

09:55: Cindy Berman is now wrapping up. She points out that ETI and its members are trying to set global good practice on transparency. She says that as we start to unpack what transparency means, we shouldn't forget that it's about improving business practices in total. She continues that's a lot more than only publicising factory lists. Trust and credibility are really key and we'll be publishing a report on transparency in the New Year to drive the conversation on expectations. But she reminds the audience, that for small and medium sized brands in particular, transparency can be a challenge; that they are at the start of what is a journey, albeit one of the most important they can ever undertake.

09:50: Our panel is giving their final thoughts. Stephen from the TUC points out that companies must realise that change is happening and where leading companies first tread, others must follow. He says that they shouldn't think they can't. Clive from Human Rights Watch agrees. He says, "things get out". Helen from M&S says that transparency is here to stay. But she says that we've got to make sure that transparency is the end of the process and does not become the process itself. 

09:45: It's being pointed out that each industrial sector has different issues of transparency but that underpinning everything is "people", and we mut not to take our eyes off the prize - that's improving the lives of workers. 

09:40: We're back in plenary. Big questions are being debated on what transparency includes, and the importance of the links between trust and credibility in a post-truth world. Are we being challenging enough? An interesting intervention from @fashionrevolution on how not being transparent is more of a reputational risk than being transparent.

09:30: The debate has moved on to debating transparency beyond "first tier". The point is that the intensity of abuse rises in lower tiers and how do you address that. The importance, says Helen, is in keeping updating. And increasingly more companies are recognising that this is important. We have an interesting blog about Gap and their findings on becoming more transparent here.

09:25: Apologies but our website went down and I've lost some of the content. We're now in table discussion and have been joined by Helen from M&S. With a mix of activists and corporate representatives, we're discussing new business models and how this may drive exploitation. 

09:15: Clive from Human Rights Watch reminds us that transparency is a means to an end - a better way of global working. 

09:10: Helen thinks that a danger is that ethical trade teams are being asked for so many responses that there is a danger that they are being hindered from doing their actual work on the ground. Stephen from the TUC acknowledges complexity but wants to see "progress and moving everything forward that can be moved forward." He wants to see "momentum". He thinks it's important for ETI, for example, to be leaders in the field. CAFOD says the big challenge, however, is "quality of reporting". She points out the many modern slavery statements, for instance, are "scanty in the extreme" and also that legislation is a must. 

09:10: The debate has moved to a fledgeling pledge on publishing the names of sourcing factories that NGOs and trade unions are asking companies to sign up to. Cindy explains that this has caused consternation as well as debate within companies, and asks Helen to talk about the challenges to companies.

09:05: Clive from Human Rights Watch says that transparency drives action and helping to solve problems. And solving problems has to be a collective effort. The more we know, the more we can work out what needs to be done.

09:00 CAFOD reminds us that transparency calls do have a purpose - and we are in very early days. Anne is also very keen on legislative change. Companies are slow on this debate. What's important is getting information out there and never forgetting the "dignity" of work. There's also an issue of "profile". CEOs, she says, have so many calls on their time that legislation is key to driving movement.

08:55: We're now listening to Stephen from the TUC. He says that workers are often in a very uncomfortable position and worry about whistleblowing. Unions want to work with companies. That means full transparency. He thinks that doesn't mean confrontation.

08:50: Sorry we've been down, but Helen from M&S says that the benefits of transparency far outweigh the negatives as she's explained what M&S does, including interactive maps of their supply chain.

08:30: We're now almost a full house, as a last few people arrive for the debate. It's being introduced by our Head of Knowledge and Learning, Cindy Berman. We've got people her from business, NGOs and trade unions. Cindy's saying, "We're fortunate to have speakers willing to talk about workers' rights and issues in global supply chains."

08:15: Our panellists are beginning to arrive as well as a steady stream of people interested in the issues. We'll be officially blogging shortly.

08:00: Good morning from London. Our #EthicalInsights debate on transparency kicks off in half an hour and we've already got people looking forward to it on Twitter. So a big welcome to the people from @wearefuturemade listening in on Twitter. We'll be tweeting under hashtags #transparency and if space allows, #bizhumanrights. And as a quick reminder, businesses are increasingly being asked to be transparent and accountable. Transparent in how they conduct their activities. Accountable in accepting responsibility for their actions.

The debate took place at ETI in London from 08:30-10:00 GMT on 15 December.

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ETI's blog covers issues at the intersection of business, news and ethical trade. We welcome a range of insights and opinions from our guest bloggers, though don't necessarily agree with everything they say.