The company information module has been developed in partnership with Open Ownership to address two key questions:
- Which countries have policies and practices in place for the centralized collection and publication of corporate registration and beneficial ownership information?
- How is corporate ownership and beneficial ownership data being used?
It explores data on companies as a key connecting element of a modern public data infrastructure, supporting trade, trusted business environments, and investigation and enforcement related to anti-corruption and anti-money laundering activities.
- Governance: Beneficial ownership
- Availability: Beneficial ownership
- Availability: Company register
- Use: Corporate due diligence
Company Information and the Public Good¶
Private firms can be engines of development, innovation, and the delivery of vital services and consumer goods. Company activities can also cause environmental and social harms, and corporate structures can be abused for money laundering, corruption. Opaque corporate structures can hide wrongdoing and harm international trade. Information on company registration, ownership, and activities can provide critical evidence for public understanding and regulation of the activities of companies, as well as support the functioning of a productive private sector that supports sustainable development outcomes.
Over recent decades, international standards have developed that require minimum levels of data collection on the registration and beneficial ownership of companies, trusts, and other legal arrangements, with civil society advocating for this information to be made publicly accessible and regional and sectoral norms of public disclosure developing as part of movement toward greater transparency (Justine Davila, Michael Barron, and Tim Law 2019). The open data movement has placed particular emphasis on company identifiers having key data links to public finance, public contacting, and political integrity (Garcia Aceves 2018).
The potential of open, shared and interoperable data on company ownership is significant. Such data can improve policymaking, support effective domestic and cross-border regulation of companies, build trusted business ecosystems that facilitate commerce and trade, support taxation policy and implementation, provide information to assist civil society oversight and action against grand corruption and money laundering, and support data-driven public procurement analysis.
Use Cases Shaping This Module¶
A number of organizations carry out reactive mapping of corporate register transparency (e.g., Open Corporates Open Company Data Index) and support the availability of open beneficial ownership registers (e.g. Open Ownership map and Global Witness review of EU progress). The periodic review of country policy and practice provided by the Global Data Barometer complements these initiatives by:
- Providing updated analysis and highlighting recent changes in practice (which can be fed into updates of these other products);
- Providing local insights from country-level researchers; and
- Providing additional contextual data that can support operational decision making (such as country targeting of capacity-building programs, particularly in the emerging area of beneficial ownership transparency).
This module's use indicator is designed to help fill a gap in the understanding of how company information data is being put to use around the world and will provide material for future case studies by organizations working on corporate ownership transparency. The data gathered may also be useful to projects seeking to improve the interoperability of corporate identifier data, such as org-id.guide, and to civil society campaigners pushing for greater transparency of corporate ownership information.
The overall assessment provided by the Barometer will provide a robust high-level statistic on the extent to which company information data is available and used for the public good. It may also prove useful to support business registers in benchmarking their practice, complementing the International Business Registers Report regular survey of corporate registrars (Registers Working Group 2019).
Module Development Notes¶
A background paper is available for this module.