Issue Cycles in Corporate Sustainability Reporting: A Longitudinal Study

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Issue cycles in media reporting and in the coverage of environmental news in particular have been studied since the 1970s. This study seeks to extend existing theory on issue-attention lifecycles from the news-media domain to the corporate domain by exploring how companies operationalize environmental sustainability over time. Using computer-assisted text analysis, this study investigates 744 corporate environmental reports in a 10-year longitudinal design in order to study how the attention that companies pay to a set of 13 environmental issues shifts over this period. The results indicate discernible issue cycles for almost all of the issues studied. Some issues are in a phase of heightened awareness, others in a punctuated equilibrium following specific events, and even others in a phase of decline. The issue cycles identified suggest that companies pursue their environmental strategies consistently, but shift attention to particular issues as a response to high-profile environmental events. Policy-makers therefore need to be aware of the slowness of changes in corporate environmental strategies.

Original languageEnglish
JournalEnvironmental Communication
Pages (from-to)247-260
Number of pages14
Publication statusPublished - 2018

    Research areas

  • CSR, Environmental issues, computer-assisted analysis, corporate communication, issue-attention cycles

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