Transparent and Caring Corporations?: A Study of Sustainability Reports by the Body Shop and Royal Dutch Shell

Sharon Livesey and Kate Kearins
Publication Date: 
Sustainability values reports published by The Body Shop International and by the Royal Dutch/Shell Group are analyzed
How corporate discourses expressed in these precedent setting texts both reflect and influence sociopolitical struggle over the meanings and practices of sustainable development is shown. Specifically, metaphors of transparency and care used to describe corporate rationales for increasing stakeholder communication, including reporting are examined. Drawing on distinct discursive domains of business accountancy and personal ethics and sentiment, these metaphors promise to reconstruct the interface between the firm and society. Exploring the quite different assumptions on which each of these metaphors relies and their implications for corporate practices of sustainable development, the authors consider whether sustainability values reporting and the dialogue that it claims to facilitate can promote more democratic and socially and environmentally responsive corporate decision making, even as they impose new forms of managerial control.