The Interplay Between Silence and Significance: An Analysis of Sustainability Reports

  • Ana Cristina Campos Marques
Part of the CSR, Sustainability, Ethics & Governance book series (CSEG)


“Music is the silence between the notes”, Claude Debussy once wrote. It is through silence that we understand what is said. In this study, I have analyzed the meanings of what is not written (silences) in the sustainability reports of the benchmarking organizations on sustainability in Brazil. This analysis was conducted through reflexivity at different levels: the narrative, the antenarrative and the fractal level. It reveals that the silences in these sustainability reports are related to the underlying antenarrative regarding the business case for sustainability. At an even deeper level, this suggests that the antenarrative on the business case for sustainability is related to the fractal narrative regarding the fear of scarcity and the competition for survival. This study offers a call to organizations, researchers and practitioners, that may be trapped in past paradigms and assumptions. It shows that a more fruitful approach would be making time for reflection and introspection on topics like purpose, values and praxis.


Sustainability report Narrative Brazil Corporate sustainability GRI 



I would like to thank the editors for the invitation and helpful feedback on earlier versions of this chapter. I am grateful to Arjo Klamer, Marja Flory, Ynze Alkema, Cristina Costa-Rijskamp and Brigitte Bernard-Rau for the valuable comments and discussions on this study. I also want to express my gratitude for the scholars who provided valuable feedback on the previous versions of this chapter at Corporate Sustainability and Responsibility Conference 2016 in Berlin, and Organizational Discourse Conference 2016 in Amsterdam.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ana Cristina Campos Marques
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  1. 1.Erasmus University RotterdamRotterdamNetherlands
  2. 2.Lumina PerspectivesCuritibaBrazil
  3. 3.Lumina PerspectivesAmsterdamNetherlands

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