I just read the latest article from the International Olive Council (IOC) entitled “International Olive Council Seeks Greater ‘Transparency’“. The first thing I thought was, “they must be in some serious trouble.” The usage of the word ‘transparency’ is one of those million dollar public relations words suffused with powerful meanings. And the meanings aren’t exactly what you’d expect.
Throughout my thirty-year-long career as a lobbyist and politician I’ve learned a thing or two about the use of the word ‘transparency’. I’ve seen it used to bolster the sagging careers of politicians who’ve been caught with their hands in the cookie jar. I’ve seen it used by company CEOs trying to save their jobs and the companies they run while a major screw-up worms it’s way into news headlines. In these instances, the word ‘transparency’ is used as a shield for hiding something, or as a means of deflecting notice from unpleasant actions or previously hidden information that is now subject to public scrutiny.
Another use of ‘transparency’ is as code for “you show me what you’ve got and I’ll take a good look” – like the transparency afforded to a peep show viewer. This instance is often found in legislation and regulations.
In any case, the term is used, but is not actually defined by the user. Why? Because the word is charged with positive connotations, and those connotations are seductive. Why define the word when the person who hears or reads it will automatically think you’ve have nothing but good intentions. Do not be tricked into substituting your own version of what transparency should be with the one presented to you, not just by the IOC, but by anyone.
Just for fun I did a search for all the uses of the word ‘transparency’ in The Olive Oil Times database and eleven articles came up, including the one above. I went to each and searched the word ‘transparency’ to determine it’s usage. In one instance it was loosely defined as traceability and in another as an olive oil production process audit. Neither definition conformed with the other. In all the other articles the word was used in such a way that the reader could then attach whatever interpretation they wished.
In order to find out just what the IOC means by ‘transparency’ and their intended actions as it relates to the meaning, here are some questions they should answer.
- What are you attempting to make transparent, and be specific?
- How will you affect these transparencies, and be specific?
- Are these transparency actions mandatory or voluntary?
- How will you police these transparency actions?
- What are the punitive measures for violation of the transparency actions?
- What are the benefits of adherence to the transparency actions?
- What is your transparency actions implementation timeline?
I know I sound jaded and I am. When a secretive, quasi-governmental, international organization is interested in transparency, you can be assured it’s not in the best interests of the two most chronically-aggrieved parties in the world olive oil industry, growers and consumers. It has been proven time and again that the International Olive Council (IOC) doesn’t implement it’s own rules and regulations, and doesn’t give a fig for growers and consumers even in their own member countries.
May the sun shine through your branches.