‘Mixing’ and ‘Bending’: The recontextualisation of discourses of sustainability in integrated reporting

Franco Zappettini, Jeffrey Unerman

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Since their emergence, discourses of sustainability have been widely resemioticised in different genres and have intertextually merged with other discourses and practices. This paper examines the emergence of Integrated Report (IR) as a new hybrid genre in which, along with financial information, organisations may choose to report the social and environmental impacts of their activities in one single document. Specifically, this paper analyses a selected sample of IRs produced by early adopters to explore how discourses of sustainability have been recontextualised into financial and economic macro discourses and how different intertextual/interdiscursive relations have played out in linguistic constructions of ‘sustainability’. We contend that, by and large, the term sustainability has been appropriated, mixed with other discourses and semantically ‘bent’ to construct the organization itself as being financially sustainable i.e. viable and profitable and for the primary benefit of shareholders. From this stance, we argue that, through the hybridity of IR, most companies have primarily colonized discourses of sustainability for the rhetorical purpose of self- legitimation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)521-542
Number of pages22
JournalDiscourse & Communication
Issue number5
Early online date4 Aug 2016
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2016


  • Recontextualisation
  • Interdiscursivity
  • Genre Analysis
  • Sustainability
  • Accountability
  • Corporate Social Responsibility
  • Accounting
  • Integrated Reporting
  • Hybridity
  • Critical Discourse Analysis
  • Discourse Historical Approach
  • Semantic Bending
  • Financial Communication

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