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Imag(in)ing Colombian post-conflict in corporate sustainability reports

Andrés Cabrera-Narváez (Faculty of Economic Sciences, Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Bogotá, Colombia)
Fabián Leonardo Quinche-Martín (Faculty of Economic, Administrative and Accounting Sciences, Fundación Universitaria Los Libertadores, Bogota, Colombia)

Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal

ISSN: 2040-8021

Article publication date: 26 January 2021

Issue publication date: 3 August 2021




This paper aims to study the use of photos in corporate sustainability reports (CSRs) as a means to gain legitimacy concerning Colombian post-conflict representations.


From a critical perspective based on legitimacy theory and political economy theory, and using visual semiotics and critical discourse analysis, this paper examines the use of photographs in sustainability reports as a mechanism to account for corporate actions regarding peace in Colombia. This paper relies on 121 pictures from 30 CSRs.


The analysis shows that companies are gaining legitimacy by referring to post-conflict through visual forms. Nonetheless, the structural conditions that caused the Colombian conflict are still present. Sustainability reporting that includes peace action representations becomes a control and subordination mechanism to reproduce existing power relations in the Colombian social order. Indeed, the generation of opportunities for civilians and ex-combatants, victims reparation, security and reconciliation remains unresolved structural issues. Hence, the use of corporate economic resources and their strategic visual representation in reports is just one business way of representing firms as aligned with government initiatives to obtain tax incentives.

Research limitations/implications

This study is centered on Colombian CSRs for the period 2016-2017; however, 2017 reports by some companies have not yet been published. This study also explored the messages contained in the images that include people. Images that do not depict persons were not examined.


This study provides evidence on visual representations of corporate peace actions aimed at gaining corporate legitimacy. Furthermore, this research examines a unique scenario that promoted more significant corporate social participation, following the signing of the peace agreements between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia, Ejército del Pueblo).



This paper forms part of a special section “Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy in Emerging & Developing Economies”, guest edited by Diogenis Baboukardos, Eshani Beddewela and Teerooven Soobaroyen.


Cabrera-Narváez, A. and Quinche-Martín, F.L. (2021), "Imag(in)ing Colombian post-conflict in corporate sustainability reports", Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal, Vol. 12 No. 4, pp. 846-871.



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