Getting down to business? Critical discourse analysis of perspectives on the private sector in sustainable development

Sarah Cummings*, Anastasia Alithia Seferiadis, Leah de Haan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Critical discourse analysis is employed to examine discourses of the private sector within key texts of the Millennium Development Goals and the Sustainable Development Goals. Taking a genealogical approach, four discourses are identified in the literature: the dominant, pro-private sector discourse, showing unconditional support for the private sector; the sceptical discourse; the middle-ground discourse with new approaches, specifically designed to leverage development relevance; and the antiprivate sector discourse, which considers that current approaches to the private sector will not be conducive to sustainable development of the global South. The pro-private sector discourse was found to be predominant within the global goals, reflecting the post-Washington Consensus as well as the role of the developed countries and the corporate sector in their formulation. All discourses on the private sector, however, place an emphasis on economic and social development at the expense of the key environmental component of sustainable development.

Original languageEnglish
JournalSustainable Development
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2 Dec 2019



  • critical discourse analysis
  • international development
  • Millennium Development Goals
  • private sector
  • sustainable development, Sustainable Development Goals

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