Social and environmental reporting and hegemonic discourse

Crawford Spence

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

178 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose - The purpose of this paper is to explore the construction/ reproduction of capitalist discourse through social and environmental reporting (SER) and, from this, to consider the implications that this may have for the function that SER serves. Design/methodology/approach - The paper employs the discourse theory of Laclau and Mouffe to frame SER as a hegemonic practice. Laclau and Mouffe's discourse theory is also used as a lens by which to interpret the findings of an empirical study exploring managerial perceptions of SER motivations and organisational-socio-environmental interactions. Findings - The paper finds that both SER and corporate social responsibility (CSR) are driven by numerous motivations, although these motivations essentially form part of a business case. In turn, the necessity of this business case appears to shape and constrain the ideologies that underpin and are communicated through SER. Research limitations/implications - The debate within the SER literature around which set of motivations best explains the existence of SER is challenged here by the notion that the vast majority of these motivations may be understood as falling into some sort of business case. Moreover, this business case is one that constrains the perceived function of practices such as SER and CSR. One limitation of the study relates to the importance of SER in wider processes of ideology construction and dissemination. SER may be peripheral in this regard. Practical implications - A practical implication of this paper is the recognition of the structural and ideological impediments to fuller accountability that are faced by corporate managers. Originality/value - The paper explores SER combining both critical theory and qualitative fieldwork. It is one of very few papers to interpret SER explicitly through the lens of discourse theory.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)855-882
Number of pages28
JournalAccounting, Auditing and Accountability Journal
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2007


  • Audit reports
  • Language
  • Myths
  • Social environment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Accounting
  • Economics, Econometrics and Finance (miscellaneous)


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