The politics of knowing 'organizational sustainable development'

Helen Tregidga, Kate Kearins, Markus Milne

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We critically examine organizational representations of sustainable development in 197 publicly-available corporate reports. Using a discourse theoretical approach, we analyze how these organizations have come to ‘know’ sustainable development, and we consider the conditions that made this knowledge possible. Themes identified are: 1) enlightened self-interest and the business case; 2) organizational sustainable development as a balancing act; 3) organizational sustainable development as necessary and important; 4) being sustainable as responsibility and/or obligation; 5) organizational sustainable development as challenge and opportunity; and 6) sustainable development as a new and an old concept. Taken-for-granted assumptions in corporate reports emphasize organizational ability to manage sustainably underpinned by optimism about technological advancements, continuous improvement and efficiencies. The organizational construction of sustainable development ‘accommodates’ current organizations and systems of organizing. More extensive and compelling engagement with the discourse is required by both practitioners and academics, and with each other - if an environmentally, socially and economically enabling construction of sustainable development is to be realized.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)102-129
JournalOrganization & Environment
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2013

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