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Jem Bendell
Adjunct Associate Professor,
Griffith Business School, Australia

Founder, Lifeworth, Switzerland

Jonathan Cohen |
Principal, Stakeholder Consulting;
Author, Business Watch*

Tipping Frames: The Lifeworth Review of 2006
[ PDF: 2585kb | 54 pages ]

Appendices available in all PDF versions.

Transparency matters


August saw the conclusion of the consultation period of the European Commission's Green Paper on the European Transparency Initiative. The consultation engaged stakeholders on aspects of transparency in the European Union, such as lobbying and disclosure of data about the recipients of various EU countries.35 Siim Kallas, vice president of the European Commission, said that self-imposed, voluntary codes do not go far enough, particularly given their impact on legislation.36 Kallas did not spare NGOs from his criticism, decrying the fact that over 2 billion per year are channelled through them, with little attention paid to how the funds are spent.37 The Alliance for Lobbying Transparency and Ethics Regulation, a coalition of 80 NGOs, has welcomed the transparency initiative. At the same time, some NGOs, such as Friends of the Earth Europe, whose largest donor is the EU, claimed that 'the attention on NGOs is simply a distraction from the much more pressing issue of corporate accountability.'38

If the sincerest form of flattery is imitation, then NGOs should be honoured by business front groups that trade on the NGO credibility of grass-roots organisations (which is why they have been dubbed 'Astroturf organisations', as in fake grass). One example can be found populating editorials in papers such as the New York Daily News, with headlines such as 'Deep-Fried Hysteria' on 29 September 2006 concerning governmental efforts to reduce obesity. There were also full-page newspaper ads, such as 'Hype', which warned readers that they have 'been force-fed a steady diet of obesity myths by the "food police," trial lawyers, and even our own government.'39 The sponsor, the Center for Consumer Freedom, is a 'nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting consumer choices and promoting common sense'. The group was founded about 12 years ago with tobacco-company and restaurant money to fight smoking curbs in restaurants. The Center and its ads are the brainchild of a Washington lobbyist for the restaurant industry.40

Given the growing use of non-profit organisations as vehicles for lobbying and advocacy by vested interests, the issue of how progressive organisations can define themselves and protect their reputations and role grows ever more important.

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35 ec.europa.eu/comm/eti/index.htm

36 EurActiv, 7 November 2006; www.euractiv.com.

37 Washington Times, 3 August 2006; www.washtimes.com.

38 EurActiv, 27 October 2006; www.euractiv.com.

39 www.nydailynews.com

40 Richard Berman, 'Deep-Fried Hysteria', Center for Consumer Freedom, 29 September 2006; www.consumerfreedom.com/oped_detail.cfm/oped/407.



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