Managing nature - business as usual : patterns of wording and patterns of meaning in corporate environmental discourse
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AbstractThis PhD thesis compares the discourse of a selection of 25 ‘green’ businesses and 37 environmental non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in the UK, using corpus linguistics. The author constructed large language ‘databases’ by downloading thousands of texts from the websites of the organisations referred to above. Using a PC-based programme called Wordsmith Tools he shows that the language of the two groups displays different patterns in the physical contextualisation of a selection of words which represent concern. Examples presented include IMPACTS, POLLUTION, CONCERNS, CONTAMINATION, HAZARDOUS, SAFETY, RISK and DAMAGE.
The machine-generated evidence is followed up by comparing how these two groups use the same words in lines of text which are extracted from the databases, and this interpretive analysis of usage confirms the differences suggested by the patterns of wording. Whereas the NGOs represent a ‘fleshy’ and ‘fibrous’ natural landscape with close attention to detail, the green corporations make generalised representations of abstract natural landscapes. Whereas the NGOs represent ‘cause-effect’ relationships, clearly identifying the agent posing a threat to the natural landscape as well as the consequences for that landscape, green business rarely represents either agents or the negative consequences. Whereas the NGOs’ response to the issue of risk is to remove the agent that poses it, the green corporations make representations of how they are able to manage the risk.
The ubiquity of the representation of a process of management in the green corporate discourse is demonstrated. The thesis concludes by showing the development of a language of representation of the natural landscape which lends itself to calibration. In this way, argues the author, it becomes possible for green business to manage its relationship with the natural landscape. The consequence of the green business quest for sustainable development will be the incorporation of the natural world within their corporate processes of management.