Implementing Sustainability in Organizations: How Practitioners Discursively Position Work

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sustainability, discourse, politics, discursive positioning

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Although largely espoused by contemporary organizations, implementing sustainability is often vague and ineffective. In contrast to most studies that employ resource-based or institutional perspectives to study sustainable organizing, we draw on discursive positioning theory to examine how sustainability practitioners make sense of and enact their work on the ground. Interviewing 45 practitioners and analyzing 35 curriculum vitae (CVs), we traced four subject positions – discovery, enlightenment, legitimacy, and consumption – constructed via 12 discursive resources. These positions emphasized 12 strategic messages, depending on participants’ work contexts. Findings also indicated four ways that politics shaped participants’ subject positions through government collaborations, regulatory environments, vested political agendas, and dominant sociopolitical discourses. We close by discussing some key theoretical and practical implications related to discursive positioning, the political implications of work practices, and sustainability policy making.

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Management Communication Quarterly, v. 32, issue 2, p. 172-201