Business makes a ‘journey’ out of ‘sustainability’: creating adventures in Wonderland?
Milne, Markus J; Kearins, Kate; Walton, Sara
This paper provides a critical exploration of the ‘journey metaphor’ promoted in much business discourse on sustainability - in corporate reports and advertisements, and in commentators’ reports in the political and professional business literature. The portrayal of sustainability as a journey evokes images of corporate adaptation, learning, and a movement away from business-as-usual practices. The journey metaphor, however, masks the issue of towards what it is that businesses are actually, or even supposedly, moving. It is argued that business is constructing ‘sustainability’ as a journey to avoid specifying some future desirable state of affairs. We suggest that by portraying ‘sustainability’ in this way, businesses, and the related political and professional literature, have invoked a subtle and powerful, use of language that appears to seriously engage with elements of the discourse around sustainable development and sustainability. Yet at the same time, by constructing and promoting its own version of the discourse, it de-emphasises discussion of desirable future states of living, and neatly sidesteps any debate about, or need to radically change course. The paper illustrates how journeying is invoked throughout corporate reports and other forms of business communication in a process of corporate myth-making. Businesses are shown to be constructing a ‘wonderland’ discourse.
Publisher: University of Otago
Series: Accountancy Working Paper Series
Research Type: Working Paper