Navigating Populism: A Study of How German and Swedish Corporations Articulate the Refugee Situation in 2015–2016

Christian Garmann Johnsen, Ulf Larsson-Olaison, Lena Olaison*, Florian Weber

*Corresponding author af dette arbejde

Publikation: Bidrag til tidsskriftTidsskriftartikelForskningpeer review


To study how populist sentiments have increasingly influenced businesses in society, we examine how German and Swedish corporations addressed the refugee situation in their 2015 and 2016 annual reports. We find that corporations changed their communication once refugee migration became subjected to populist political sentiments, but that they did so without subscribing to those sentiments. Although populism is based on such sharp oppositions as welcoming refugees or closing borders, our analysis shows that corporations have found ways to communicate about the refugee migration beyond these oppositions. Rather than taking a political stance, the corporations studied have primarily articulated the refugee situation as it pertains to their business operations. We identify four modes of articulation: the refugee as someone needing international aid, as a factor for economic analysis, as a benefit recipient, or as a potential stakeholder. These findings help nuance our understanding of how corporations navigate contested political issues.
TidsskriftBusiness & Society
Udgave nummer2
Sider (fra-til)341-372
Antal sider32
StatusUdgivet - feb. 2024

Bibliografisk note

Published online: 9 October 2023.


  • Corporate reporting
  • Discourse analysis
  • Politics
  • Populism
  • Refugee crisis