Building a trustworthy corporate identity: a corpus-based analysis of stance in annual and corporate social responsibility reports

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This article presents a corpus-based analysis of stance in a specialized corpus of annual and corporate social responsibility (CSR) reports. It investigates how companies use stance expressions to construct and promote a positive corporate identity in order to gain the trust of the stakeholder groups that these texts target. The results show that companies profile distinct identities in annual and CSR reports. In annual reports, they use stance resources to portray themselves as unbiased, rational, and competent decision makers. In CSR reports, they present themselves as committed, honest, and caring corporate citizens. These discursive identities are interpreted as strategic self-representations that optimize the persuasive appeal of the reports by addressing the specific expectations of the target readerships. This study sheds some new light on the identity work performed by companies in their public discourse. It also provides novel insights into the impression management strategies used by companies in annual and CSR reports. Finally, it provides both linguists and business communication scholars with a robust descriptive basis for critically assessing financial and CSR reporting.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)846-885
Number of pages40
JournalApplied Linguistics
Issue number6
Early online date13 Feb 2017
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2018


  • trust, corporate communication, impression management, evaluation, genre analysis, corpus linguistics