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Meaning Making by Managers: Corporate Discourse on Environment and Sustainability in India


  • Prithi Nambiar


  • Naren Chitty



The globally generated concepts of environment and sustainability are fast gaining currency in international business discourse. Sustainability concerns are concurrently becoming significant to business planning around corporate social responsibility and integral to organizational strategies toward enhancing shareholder value. The mindset of corporate managers is a key factor in determining company approaches to sustainability. But what do corporate managers understand by sustainability? Our study explores discursive meaning negotiation surrounding the concepts of environment and sustainability within business discourse. The study is based on qualitative interpretive research drawing from symbolic interactionism (Blumer, Symbolic interactionism: perspective and method. Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs, 1969 ) which postulates that meaning in discourse is an essentially contested domain dependent upon negotiation in the Habermasian tradition of mutually respectful dialogue (Habermas, The theory of communicative action: lifeworld and system: a critique of functionalist reason. Beacon Press, Boston 1987 ). Data from semi-structured intensive interviews of a small sample of senior corporate managers was analyzed to examine how corporate elites in India frame their approach to sustainability issues and respond to external pressures for deeper corporate responsibility. The findings point to the existence of a distinctively local narrative with strong potential for the discursive negotiation of personal and collective understanding of ethical and socio-cultural values that may help internalize broader sustainability considerations into corporate decision-making processes. Copyright Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Suggested Citation

  • Prithi Nambiar & Naren Chitty, 2014. "Meaning Making by Managers: Corporate Discourse on Environment and Sustainability in India," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 123(3), pages 493-511, September.
  • Handle: RePEc:kap:jbuset:v:123:y:2014:i:3:p:493-511
    DOI: 10.1007/s10551-013-1848-2

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Itziar Castelló & Josep Lozano, 2011. "Searching for New Forms of Legitimacy Through Corporate Responsibility Rhetoric," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 100(1), pages 11-29, April.
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    Cited by:

    1. repec:kap:jbuset:v:148:y:2018:i:3:d:10.1007_s10551-016-3022-0 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Catherine le Roux & Marius Pretorius, 2016. "Conceptualizing the Limiting Issues Inhibiting Sustainability Embeddedness," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 8(4), pages 1-22, April.
    3. repec:gam:jsusta:v:8:y:2016:i:5:p:444:d:69453 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Onyeka K. Osuji & Ugochukwu L. Obibuaku, 2016. "Rights and Corporate Social Responsibility: Competing or Complementary Approaches to Poverty Reduction and Socioeconomic Rights?," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 136(2), pages 329-347, June.
    5. Jamali, Dima & Karam, Charlotte & Yin, Juelin & Soundararajan, Vivek, 2017. "CSR logics in developing countries: Translation, adaptation and stalled development," Journal of World Business, Elsevier, vol. 52(3), pages 343-359.
    6. Catherine Le Roux & Marius Pretorius, 2016. "Navigating Sustainability Embeddedness in Management Decision-Making," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 8(5), pages 1-23, May.
    7. repec:gam:jsusta:v:8:y:2016:i:4:p:364:d:68126 is not listed on IDEAS


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