The Evolution of the Sustainability Story: Strategic Sustainability Communication as Niche Construction

Publication: Scientific journalJournal articlepeer-review


In this article, the evolutionary perspective is applied as a heuristic to explore strategic sustainability communication as communicative niche construction at the intersection of organizations and their environment over the past decades. Within the sustainability story and frames that organize the narratives, corporates as ‘species’ not only adapt to their constantly changing environment (communicative cultivation of new values within the organization) but also impact their environment, change cultural patterns, and co-construct their own socio-ecological niche (niche construction through communication). The evolution of the strategic sustainability story can be observed in the development of corporate non-financial reporting over the past three decades. This article utilizes a mixed-methodologically designed content analysis of a sample of (n =) 250 “Environment(al) Reports” from the 1990s, later entitled as “CSR Reports” (2000–2015), and today as “Sustainability Reports”. The sample has been taken from 15 internationally operating energy corporates within a time span of 30 years. After the theoretical conceptualization, the methodology and the findings of the study are presented along with a discussion of the limitations of the analysis. Finally, future potential of the evolutionary psychology approach to study and conceptualize strategic communication and of transposing the framework of biological niches to the corporate world, is discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)228-244
Number of pages17
JournalInternational Journal of Strategic Communication
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 The Author(s). Published with license by Taylor & Francis Group, LLC.

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