Information Disclosure

Overview

Information disclosure refers to a variety of programs or practices, both legislated (initiated by government) and/or voluntary (initiated by private parties) to inform the public and other interests about risks or benefits to human health, natural resources and the environmental consequences created by products or activities.

Legislated disclosure programs obligate companies to release both positive and negative information, or to provide information to regulatory agencies for public release. Voluntary disclosure programs invite firms or organizations to willingly release information related to their environmental performance, however tend to only highlight positive performance.

Disclosure can motivate organizations to improve environmental, conservation and health and safety practices. Motivation is driven by the avoidance of bad publicity and the opportunity to gain public, employee and supplier recognition and improve market share and product sales. The collection and publication of information also assists with the identification of priorities for action and tracking progress in reducing environmental impacts.

Tool list

Fact Sheets Description
Pollutant Release Inventories Publication of information on release of environmental pollutants.
Eco-labelling Product warnings informing consumers about the health and environmental risks and benefits associated with products and the activities undertaken to produce products.
Environmental Report Cards Collection and publication of information on environmental performance indicators associated with facilities, operations and practices.
Environmental Performance Awards Programs that recognize environmental and resource conservation, stewardship and best practices.

Tool strengths

  • Empowers the public - armed with more information, consumers are able to make more informed decisions and press for safer and more ecologically friendly and resource conscious products and practices.
  • Promotes behaviour change - especially effective in advancing positive ecological change where business profits are sensitive to public opinion.
  • Improves internal knowledge - increased corporate awareness about environmental and resource liabilities within a firm.
  • Improves government's knowledge - the better informed a government is about a firm's/sector's environmental performance, the more effectively they can set priorities and track the effectiveness of other policies.
  • Provides response flexibility - companies can choose whether to respond, how to respond and the timing of their response.

Tool limitations

  • Information sometimes misunderstood - information may not be interpreted accurately by the intended audience.
  • Limited citizen motivation to seek information and respond - information disclosure programs rely on citizens seeking out and acting on the information. If there is little demand from the public for information about environmental performance, the effectiveness of the program can be called into question.
  • Time sensitive - there is often a significant time lag between when releases occur and when this information is disclosed publicly.
  • Costs - can impose significant costs to governments and companies in the collection, preparation, interpretation and dissemination of information.
  • Questionable effectiveness - the exact environmental benefits that arise under information disclosure tools are difficult to track and thus there is some uncertainty in terms of effectiveness.

 

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Posted: Jan 8, 2015