Sustainability Ratings and the Disciplinary Power of the Ideology of Numbers

Journal of Business Ethics 112 (2):187-203 (2013)
The main purpose of this paper is to better understand how sustainability rating agencies, through discourse, promote an “ideology of numbers” that ultimately aims to establish a regime of normalization governing social and environmental performance. Drawing on Thompson’s (Ideology and modern culture: Critical social theory in the era of mass communication, 1990 ) modes of operation of ideology, we examine the extent to which, and how, the ideology of numbers is reflected on websites and public documents published by a range of sustainability rating agencies. Our analysis indicates that the ideology of numbers promotes a relatively narrow vision of corporate social and environmental responsibility. That is, it establishes some areas of visibility while leaving in the shadow certain aspects of the ways in which companies fulfill, or fail to meet, their social and environmental responsibilities. The ideology of numbers also exerts power by identifying those companies that are deemed to be worthy of inclusion, or not, in a supposedly socially responsible corporate elite.
Keywords Disciplinary power  Discourse analysis  Ideology of numbers  Mechanisms of exclusion  Rating agencies  Sustainability
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1007/s10551-012-1252-3
 Save to my reading list
Follow the author(s)
My bibliography
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Revision history Request removal from index
Download options
PhilPapers Archive

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy on self-archival     Papers currently archived: 23,201
External links
Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library
References found in this work BETA

View all 16 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA
Jeremy Galbreath (2013). ESG in Focus: The Australian Evidence. Journal of Business Ethics 118 (3):529-541.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles
Gayil Talshir (2005). The Phoenix of Ideology. Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy 8 (2):107-124.
Mathew Humphrey (2005). (De) Contesting Ideology: The Struggle Over the Meaning of the Struggle Over Meaning. Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy 8 (2):225-246.

Monthly downloads

Added to index


Total downloads

13 ( #334,518 of 1,940,950 )

Recent downloads (6 months)

7 ( #132,985 of 1,940,950 )

How can I increase my downloads?

My notes
Sign in to use this feature

Start a new thread
There  are no threads in this forum
Nothing in this forum yet.