Business and Human Rights: A Content Analysis of Corporate Responses to Civil Society Reports in the Extractive Sector

Moritz Neumann & Mette Slot Lykke

Student thesis: Master thesis


Purpose – This paper investigates the rhetoric of nine extractive companies, as they address public allegations of human rights violations. Accordingly, the research applies Garrett et al.’s (1989) framework for analysing organisational communication responses to determine its applicability now, 30 years later.
Methodology – The research utilises secondary data sources in the form of company responses, retrieved from the ‘Business and Human Rights Resource Centre’, in December 2018. A qualitative content analysis facilitates the systematic evaluation of 147 company responses1 . The data is approached abductively which allowed new themes to emerge, and the coding is performed from a latent perspective. The findings show the relative account frequency and present these through a mixture of quantitative and qualitative depictions.
Findings – The analysis indicates that Garrett et al.’s (1989) four main typologies; Denial, Excuse, Concession, and Justification along with its five subcategories, remain applicable. Still, this research expands on our understanding of corporate attitudes to charges of unethical behaviour in several ways. Firstly, our open engagement with the data helps us develop two new account types. These are categorised as Self-Promotion and Diversion. As these categories capture a significant share of the examined company responses, their inclusion in this research is justified. Secondly, this study identifies a compelling preference for justifying company actions by appealing to legal rights. Thirdly, this research observes a predominant application of Self-Promotion accounts and the arguable growth in their usage. Combined with suggestions in the literature that Symbolic Corporate Environmentalism is increasingly applied by corporations, this may imply extractive companies are increasingly aware of the need to perform selfregulatory measures in order to maintain their legitimacy in the marketplace.

EducationsMSc in Business, Language and Culture, (Graduate Programme) Final ThesisMSc in Business, Language and Culture - Business and Development Studies, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2019
Number of pages384