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Title: Rhetorical moves and metadiscourse in environmental, social and governance reports of listed companies in Hong Kong
Authors: Ching, Nok Hang
Degree: Ph.D.
Issue Date: 2020
Abstract: The past few decades have witnessed the growing importance of corporate social responsibility (CSR). There is no consensus on the definition of CSR. In a general sense, the concept of CSR requires organisations, including listed companies, to go beyond profit maximisation and be more responsible for their impacts on society and the environment by integrating social and environmental concerns into their business strategy. Listed companies have to be accountable not only to shareholders, but also other stakeholders such as employees, consumers, suppliers, interest groups and the public. One of the ways for listed companies to demonstrate accountability to their stakeholders is through CSR reporting. CSR reports have become an important form of external corporate communication. They provide information about the CSR performance of a listed company in areas such as environmental protection, labour practices, community involvement, consumer issues and supply chain management. In the context of Hong Kong, CSR reports are referred to as environmental, social and governance (ESG) reports by the Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing Limited (2011a). The present study aims to provide a two-level investigation of the genre of ESG reports by analysing two major parts of the report, namely the chairperson's statement and the main section. At the macro-textual level, the analysis concentrates on the move structure of chairpersons' statements and main sections. At the micro-textual level, the analysis focuses on the use of metadiscourse in chairpersons' statements and main sections. Two corpora - the Corpus of Chairpersons' Statements (CCS) and the Corpus of Main Sections (CMS) - were compiled. The data for this study consists of 54 standalone ESG reports issued by ten listed companies in the industry of properties and construction between 2006 and 2016.
Move analyses were conducted to investigate the move structure of chairpersons' statements and main sections of ESG reports. The (part) genre of chairpersons' statements comprises 21 move types, while the (part) genre of main sections comprises 20 move types. The two (part) genres share 16 move types. Results show the recursive nature of the two move structures, with moves and steps occurring multiple times. Move type 3 'reporting on CSR performance', move type 5 'establishing credentials', move type 11 'stating values and beliefs' and move type 12 'showing commitment' are crucial in both chairpersons' statements and main sections. The combined use of move types 3, 5, 11 and/or 12 is termed 'sequence' in this study. Various sequences used in the CCS and the CMS are revealed. The use of sequences demonstrates the close relationship among the move types as well as the complexity of the two (part) genres. Based on a critical evaluation of current literature on metadiscourse, the present study adapted Hyland's (2005a) interpersonal model of metadiscourse. Interactional metadiscourse is used more heavily than interactive metadiscourse in the CCS, while the reverse is the case in the CMS. The metadiscourse items identified in both corpora are found to belong to all nine subcategories of metadiscourse in the model of metadiscourse for the present study. The exploration of metadiscourse reveals how interactive and interactional metadiscourse items are used in a variety of ways in chairpersons' statements and main sections. It also illustrates how the three means of persuasion, namely logos, ethos and pathos, can be realised with the use of metadiscourse in chairpersons' statements and main sections. By identifying patterns of metadiscourse use in the moves in chairpersons' statements and main sections, the present study elucidates the interplay between move structure and metadiscourse use and show how the interplay contributes to the persuasiveness of the ESG report. This study can help users of ESG reports, corporate communications professionals and applied linguists to gain a better understanding of ESG reports from the perspectives of rhetorical organisation and metadiscourse. Pedagogically, findings from the study can contribute to material design for English for specific purposes (ESP) courses and professional training programmes.
Subjects: Discourse analysis
Social responsibility of business
Public relations -- Language
Hong Kong Polytechnic University -- Dissertations
Industrial publicity
Pages: xv, 408 pages
Appears in Collections:Thesis

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