A Swiss‐Army Knife? A Critical Assessment of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) in Ghana

Date01 March 2016
Published date01 March 2016
AuthorNathan Andrews
A Swiss-Army Knife?
A Critical Assessment of the
Extractive Industries
Transparency Initiative (EITI)
in Ghana
Within the current global atmosphere where a universally
accepted police force is nonexistent, there are several vol-
untary norms and codes of conduct that exist to guide
how corporations behave worldwide. These have come as
a result of many years of poor performance in the areas of
social, financial, and environmental responsibility. Such
norms are expected to prescribe and proscribe certain
types of corporate behavior but when one examines the
reality on the ground, the story is not that straightfor-
ward. This article assesses the effectiveness of the Extrac-
tive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) in the
Ghanaian context with a focus on the mining sector.
Nathan Andrews recently completed his PhD in Political Science at the University of Alberta
and is currently an adjunct assistant professor and a Banting postdoctoral fellow at Queen’s
University. Nathan’s ongoing research focuses on the international political economy of natural
resources in Africa with a current focus on Ghana. Some of his peer-reviewed publications
have appeared in journals such as International Journal, Third World Quarterly, World Futures,
Africa Today, and Resources Policy. His two co-edited books are Africa Yesterday, Today and
Tomorrow: Exploring the Multi-dimensional Discourses on ‘Development’ (Cambridge Scholars,
2013), and Millennium Development Goals in Retrospect: Africa’s Development Beyond 2015
(Springer, 2015). Email: nathan.andrews@queensu.ca.
C2016 Center for Business Ethics at Bentley University. Published by Wiley Periodicals, Inc.,
350 Main Street, Malden, MA 02148, USA, and 9600 Garsington Road, Oxford OX4 2DQ, UK.
Business and Society Review 121:1 59–83
Based on primary qualitative data the argument is that
even though the EITI is performing some function, it has
ways to go before it can become an across-the-board via-
ble tool for transparency and proper accountability. Five
prevailing weaknesses are discussed to underscore this
The Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) has
been deemed to embody the Swiss Army knife of policy tools
as a result of its enormous weight, dynamism, and the man-
ner in which the norm diffusion process works both endogenously
and exogenously (Dobbin et al. 2007; Greif and Laitin 2004; Hau-
fler 2010). But let me note from the outset that this article ques-
tions this Swiss army knife analogy because it misleads us into
thinking the set of principles that underlie the EITI are so sharp
and multifaceted that they can absolutely eradicate existing trans-
parency, accountability, and ethical issues corporations are facing.
This is simply not the case. Some writings in this journal have
commented on this topic, and the discussion has been as varied as
the broader field of business ethics itself (see Topal and Toledano
2013; Vogl 2007). Yet, there is no conclusive evidence to suggest
that the EITI has an overwhelming advantage as a global norm.
The overall objective of the initiative is to increase transparency
over payments by companies to governments and government
agencies, as well as transparency over revenues by those host
country governments. The EITI, by its nature, forms part of global
regimes that are controlled by compliance disclosure measures.
According to Fasterling (2012), “regulation through compliance dis-
closure is an approach that presents a midway solution between
substantive and informational, non-state and state regulation, and
in a very broad sense could be categorized as ‘soft law’” (p. 74). The
“soft” nature of this disclosure mechanism implies there is no guar-
antee that actors will take it seriously, even when powerful advo-
cates have embraced the language around it.
It is generally accepted that the EITI as a global initiative became
popular in 2002 after its announcement in a statement by the then UK

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