Looking for words about the future of sustainability

Reporting on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and sustainability has grown exponentially. The quality of the reporting has also improved, including historical information and forward-looking statements. A recent study by Aiezza (2015 in press) shows that there is still a strong bias towards optimistic trends when it comes to reporting on sustainability issues.

Risks, failures and other difficulties are often missing or at least relativised. Sometimes it looks like the real focus is not on actual results or accurate forecasts but on corporate image using many different words such as: aim, anticipate, believe, budget, could, continue, enable, estimate, expect, forecast, intend, may, might, plan, propose, project, schedule, seek, should, suppose, target, will and would.

Perhaps all these words can be the next step to improve CSR and CSR reporting, when stakeholders start to engage on the reports by asking what the words really mean.

Norbert Bol


Aiezza, M. C. (2015). “We may face the risks”…“risks that could adversely affect our face.” A corpus-assisted discourse analysis of modality markers in CSR reports. Studies in Communication Sciences. (Article in press / corrected proof).

2 thoughts on “Looking for words about the future of sustainability

  1. Norbert, your conclusion “Sometimes it looks like the real focus is not on actual results or accurate forecasts but on corporate image….” is an ultimate critical conclusion in your blog about sustanability. That being said, you encourage stakeholders rather mildly to be more critical. My first thought was ‘Sustainability deserves a more outspoken plea about the nececessary proof of results.’ But reading your conclusion and plea again, I think that every sensitive communication director reading your blog is aware from now on – or at least should be aware – to avoid that kind of marketing tricks and stakeholders won’t read a claim for sustanabilty anymore without looking or asking for concrete results, I hope. Communication and marketing, of course, is not all about corporate image. Even ‘Be good and tell it’, is not enough anymore. Your blog inspires to be sustainable and… to prove it.” Preferably independent controlled and tested.

    Without any doubt you can tell us more about reporting with objectively controlled results concerning sustainability.

    Herman Mandemakers


  2. Herman, thanks for your comment. Objectively controlled results on sustainability are at the moment not available. In the first place because we still do not know how to measure ecosystems (planet) and communities (people). In the second place we need a methodology on how to weigh short term and long term profit in relation to our ecosystems and communities. There are however minimum criteria, which are often set by a government or governing body. Most of the results or often benchmarked by external institutions with peer companies or are related to the goals set by the company itself. In the blog I wanted to encourage the debate about the future goals and the forecast statements which are set by companies as I believe it can accelerate progress on innovation and sustainability.


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