The Power of Words: Sustainability Reporting as a Hegemonic Practice
Sammanfattning: This paper investigates how H&M have represented itself as sustainable in relation to worker challenges in its transnational supply chain in 21 publicly available corporate reports from 1998 and 2018. This period captures the emergence of sustainability disclosures and the development of corporate reporting on worker-challenges in the supply chain within the context of the study, the fast-fashion industry. The analysis is framed by Laclau and Mouffe's discourse theory, which is used in order to interpret the findings. In particular, it draws on Laclau and Mouffe's conceptualizations of discourse and hegemony. The analysis uncovers a changing sustainability discourse over time. Three distinct discourses are highlighted, which capture key representations over time of the worker challenges that H&M face, what is done to govern these, and what responsibilities are envisioned: policing governance (1998-2001); dialogue and partnership (2002-2011); and, systems and collaboration (2012-2018). The paper demonstrates through an analysis of these evolving discourses and their effects, how H&M have maintained a 'right to speak' within the sustainable development debate and constructed itself as 'sustainable', despite the fundamental challenges and hegemonic threat that a these worker challenges imply.
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