The Danish toymaker’s failure to acknowledge the Shell and Ai WeiWei controversies raise questions over what else it is hiding

Here’s an easy way to diagnose transparency: check the contents of a corporate sustainability report against the list of bad news stories about the company in its reporting year.

One would hope, say, that Volkswagen would talk openly about its emissions scandal. That the banks would discuss how they rigged exchange rates and mis-sold insurance. That prosecutions for bribery and corruption were explained. That fines for forming cartels were revealed. That revelations of skeletons (and slaves) in the supply chains were reported.

And indeed, this is what some companies do. After its corruption scandal in 2008, BAE Systems, the defence company, went for full disclosure in its subsequent corporate responsibility report. Stakeholders rejoiced at the transparency and the heavens did not fall in.

Public Spat

Those are the really bad news stories. But how about the moderately awful? Like Lego’s very public run-in with Greenpeace over the toy company’s commercial association with Shell? Or its widely reported spat with the Chinese activist artist Ai WeiWei when Lego refused to sell him building blocks for an installation?

These are the events – and the company’s side of the story – that you would expect to read about in a sustainability report. The stories embody the...

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