CFP for the 2021 ABC MLA Panel: "The Rhetoric of Sustainability and Corporate Social Responsibility"

Conference: Modern Language Association Convention

Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Dates: 7–10 January 2021

Full name of organization: Association for Business Communication

Contact email: 

Due date for abstracts: 07 March 2020

Call for papers/abstracts:

With the growing recognition of societal concerns, from environmental care to community needs, companies and organizations are increasingly expected to engage in sustainability efforts; thus, corporate social responsibility (CSR) is integral to conveying a company's focus on sustainability, which the United Nations' (1989) Brundtland Report defines as "meet[ing] the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs" (p. 16). However, such efforts call into question the rhetoric of sustainability (ROS) employed in corporate literature to portray companies and organizations as fulfilling their social responsibility.

Recent issues of Business and Professional Communication Quarterly and the International Journal of Business Communication have focused on a variety of issues related to CSR. Topics have focused on comparisons of CSR on internal corporations' websites (Tang, Gallagher, & Bie, 2015); communicating CSR (Chaudhri, 2016); social media and CSR (Cho, Furey, & Mohr, 2017); and CSR reporting on climate change in the oil industry (Jaworska, 2018). The focus on CSR reporting of climate change in the oil industry signals an important turn towards sustainability in CSR in recent articles on business communication.

Likewise, literature-focused departments, like English, have also grappled with the problems of sustainability. Texts and authors important to English have also been foundational to the field of sustainability (e.g., Henry David Thoreau's Walden and Aldo Leopold's Sand County Almanac). Literary theories regularly engage with the deleterious effect of globalization and neoliberalism on ecosystems, including humans' influence on the environment (ecocriticism, environmentalism, cultural ecology, ecosophy, the Anthropocene, etc.).

What do fiction writers, filmmakers, documentarians, social critics, etc. have to say about ROS and CSR? Do ROS and CSR reflect long-term commitment to positive change, or are they simply marketing ploys? Do ROS and/or CSR mitigate or reinforce neoliberalism? How does awareness of ROS and/or CSR affect consumer-choices? Do the ROS and CSR positively influence the public's perception of sustainability efforts? How are effective ROS communication efforts defined? What are some examples of these successful efforts? What efforts have failed, and how might they be improved for similar contexts in the future? How do we teach ROS and CSR in our classes?

Please consider submitting abstracts analyzing ROS and CSR in aesthetic productions (i.e., books and films), non-fiction, and/or corporate literature/content. Theoretical models can include but are not limited to the following:

· Sustainability

· Ecocriticism

· Ecosophy

· Cultural Ecology

· Cultural Theory

· Postcolonial Theory

· Pop Culture Studies

· Film Studies

· Marxism

· Globalization Studies

· Studies of Neoliberalism

· Deleuzo-Guattarian Theory

· Posthuman Theory

· The Anthropocene

Submission: Submit a 300-word abstract, including references, for a 15-minute presentation to William Christopher Brown at by 07 March 2020.  Selections will be made through blind review. All identifying information should be removed from submissions. 

Required memberships: To participate in this panel, all participants must be members of both the Association for Business Communication and the Modern Language Association by 07 April 2020.


Chaudhri, V. (2016). Corporate social responsibility and the communication imperative: Perspectives from CSR managers. International Journal of Business Communication, 53(4), 419-442.

Cho, M., Furey, L.D., & Mohr, T. (2017).  Communicating corporate social responsibility on social media: strategies, stakeholders, and public engagement on corporate Facebook. Business and Professional Communication Quarterly, 80(1), 52-69.

Jaworska, S. (2018). Change but no climate change: Discourses of climate change in corporate social responsibility reporting in the oil industry. International Journal of Business Communication, 55(2), 194-219.  

Tang, L., Gallagher, C.C., & Bie, B. (2015). Corporate social responsibility communication through corporate websites: A comparison of leading corporations in the United States and China. International Journal of Business Communication, 52(2), 205-227.

United Nations. Division for Sustainable Development Goals. (1989). Report of the World Commission on Environment and Development: Our common future. Retrieved from


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