(Re)Presenting 'Sustainable Organizations'

Helen Tregidga, Markus Milne, Kate Kearins

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper investigates how organizations represent themselves in relation to sustainable development in 365 publicly available corporate reports from 1992-2010. This period of reporting captures the emergence and development of corporate reporting on sustainable development within the context of the study, New Zealand. Laclau and Mouffe’s discourse theory is employed to frame the analysis and interpret the findings. In particular Laclau and Mouffe’s conceptualizations of discourse, identity and group formation, and their theorization of hegemony are drawn upon. The analysis uncovers a changing organizational identity over time. Three distinct identities which capture key organizational representations over time are highlighted: environmentally responsible and compliant organizations; leaders in sustainability; and strategically ‘good’ organizations. The paper demonstrates through an analysis of these evolving identities and their effects, how organizations have maintained a ‘right to speak’ within the sustainable development debate, despite the fundamental challenges and hegemonic threat that a broader reading of sustainable development might imply.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)477-494
JournalAccounting, Organizations and Society
Issue number6
Early online date14 Nov 2013
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2014

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