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Transparency through Labelling? Layers of Visibility in Environmental Risk Management

  • C, Garsten
  • M. Lindh de Montoya
Publiceringsår: 2008
Språk: Engelska
Sidor: 178-197
Publikation/Tidskrift/Serie: Transparency in a New Global Order: Unveiling Organizational Visions
Dokumenttyp: Del av eller Kapitel i bok
Förlag: Edward Elgar Publishing


The aim of this chapter is to move the issue a bit beyond the polarized views of

profound critical reflection versus excessive trust in the checking procedures behind

standards. We claim that the polarized views are largely due to an over-simplistic

understanding of transparency. By comparing practical policy processes surrounding

various standards, we aim to provide nuance to the issue of transparency. This study ofpolicy processes, along with examinations of theoretical work in policy analysis, makes

clear the limits of merely treating transparency in terms of ‘more’ versus ‘less’. A more

thorough understanding of the promise and limits of transparency in policy processes

requires, we argue, another dimension, consisting of qualitatively different ‘layers’ of

transparency. The basis for our emphasis on this additional dimension is the obvious -

yet often overlooked - notion that an examination of standards, which are in turn

claimed to disclose hidden, and often physical, risks, needs to take the political context

into account as well as the negotiations and framings surrounding the schemes on which

the standards are based. Since risks are uncertain, socially and culturally dependent, and

since they are evaluated and interpreted in many different ways by actors with diverse

ideologies and interests, a more comprehensive transparency must reach far beyond the

concrete visibility and direct awareness of the label itself.

Based on these claims we find it useful to distinguish between four layers of

transparency in relation to standards, certificates and labels: (1) simple, mediated

transparency, (2) negotiated transparency, (3) intra-frame transparency and (4) interframe

transparency (see figure 1). We maintain, nevertheless, that transparency through

standards and labels remains closely related to people’s own direct experiences of risks.

Thus, experiences and senses of our environment never loose their relevance even in

relation to very abstract, technical and expert-oriented tools. Hence, in addition, direct

experience (yet situated, interpreted, etc.) is prevalent at all these four layers.

Empirically, this chapter examines how these layers of transparency operate in

the context of standardized eco-labelling schemes that are claimed to make invisible

risks visible and manageable.


  • Sociology (excluding Social Work, Social Psychology and Social Anthropology)
  • uncertainty
  • eco-standards
  • framing
  • forestry
  • food
  • electricity
  • Transparency


  • ISBN: 978-1-84542-325-4

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