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.
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).