This study argues that the reputational concerns of several high-profile actors drove the emergence of oil sector transparency as an international norm. Thanks to successful advocacy campaigns, developing country oil sector operations began to pose increasing levels of reputational risk to Western governments, international institutions, and corporations.
These actors responded to this scrutiny by facilitating the evolution of transparency into a widely cited oil sector ‘‘best practice.’’
However, the self-interests of these actors also altered the course of the norm’s definition and institutionalization in ways which may constrain its eventual impact on industry behaviors. This study narrates the surprising and rapid spread of the transparency norm in developing country oil affairs, a process which suggests that reputational utility should be considered as a possible explanation for norm emergence.