First Advisor

Angela C. Henderson

First Committee Member

Mel Moore

Degree Name

Master of Arts

Document Type


Date Created



The purpose of the study was to critically analyze how the problem of sustainable development is constructed in the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) and identify what underlying assumptions and historical events produced the problematization as the GRI aims to guide global behavior. The study explored how governing took place by identifying what was silenced in the problem representation and the discursive effects and subject positions it produced. Carol Bacchi's (2009) "What’s the problem represented to be?" (WPR) facilitated this Foucault-influenced poststructural discourse analysis. The interrogation revealed that (a) sustainable development is characterized as a problem of corporate transparency, and (b) transparency is understood to produce accountability by making visible corporate impacts on the economy, environment, and people, including human rights. This study brought to the surface dominant Western ontological regimes underpinning transparency, highlighting that alternative worldviews are silenced in this governing mechanism. Further, the study teased out underlying neoliberal discourse that shaped the subjects the GRI's problem representation produced, a neoliberal stakeholder. The practical contributions have significant implications for organizations determining their stakeholders. Organizations should develop a critical approach to using the GRI standards to ensure all relevant stakeholders are included. Mindlessly following a Western-centric framework can nudge organizations (unintentionally) to limit transparency and accountability, producing deleterious lived effects for people across the planet. This is helpful for sustainability analysts, policymakers, and researchers, as this broadens the scope of relevance and helps identify impacts on stakeholders and their human rights by exploring alternative truths.

Abstract Format



Politics and Social Change | Social and Behavioral Sciences | Sociology | Sociology of Culture | Theory, Knowledge and Science


WPR, Bacchi, Policy Analysis, Discourse Analysis, Methodology, Global Reporting Initiative, Sustainability, Neoliberalism


90 pages

Rights Statement

Copyright is held by the author.