Journal Article


Doris M. Merkl-Davies
Niamh Brennan



design methodology argument greenpeace stakeholder text analysis rhetoric discourse analysis environmental reporting

Rhetoric and Argument in Social and Environmental Reporting: the Dirty Laundry case (2014)

Abstract Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to explore the interactive element in social and environmental reporting during a controversy between business organisations and a stakeholder over environmental performance. Design/methodology/approach: The paper adopts Aristotle's triangular framework of the rhetorical situation to examine how the writer, the audience, and the purpose of communication interact in the choice of rhetorical strategies used to persuade others of the validity and legitimacy of a claim during a public controversy. The analysis focuses on the strategies (i.e. moves and their rhetorical realisations) in the form of logos (appealing to logic), ethos (appealing to authority), and pathos (appealing to emotion), with a particular emphasis on metaphor, used to achieve social and political goals. The authors base the analysis on a case study involving a conflict between Greenpeace and six organisations in the sportswear/fashion industry over wastewater discharge of hazardous chemicals. The conflict played out in a series of 20 press releases issued by the parties over a two-month period. Findings: All six firms interacting with Greenpeace in the form of press releases eventually conceded to Greenpeace's demand to eliminate hazardous chemicals from their supply chains. The paper attributes this to Greenpeace's ability to harness support from other key stakeholders and to use rhetoric effectively. Results show the extensive use of rhetoric by all parties. Originality/value: The authors regard legitimacy construction as reliant on communication and as being achieved by organisations participating in a dialogue with stakeholders. For this purpose, the paper develops an analytical framework which situates environmental reporting in a specific rhetorical situation and links rhetoric, argument, and metaphor.                      
Collections Ireland -> University College Dublin -> Business Research Collection
Ireland -> University College Dublin -> School of Business
Ireland -> University College Dublin -> College of Business

Full list of authors on original publication

Doris M. Merkl-Davies, Niamh Brennan

Experts in our system

Doris M. Merkl-Davies
University College Dublin
Total Publications: 9
Niamh Brennan
University College Dublin
Total Publications: 106