Date of Award

Winter 11-26-2012

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Carrie Freeman

Second Advisor

Natalie Tindall

Third Advisor

Nathan Atkinson


As companies discover the monetary benefits of a positive environmental image, a proliferation of green imaging confounds the public sphere. The consequence becomes the disarticulation of terms like environmental excellence, sustainable development, and minimum environmental harm. Because the oversaturation of greening efforts has elicited public distrust, stakeholders need timely and accurate information regarding environmental claims. As a major vehicle for communicating these efforts, corporate environmental reports (CERs) are laden with colorful and sublime images. This study examines the functionality of images found in CERs from 27 industry leaders, applying Sonja Foss’s tenets of visual rhetorical analysis to identify the nature and function of the images and offer an evaluation based on emergent themes. Because images are increasingly important to corporate transparency, the study concludes with several best practice recommendations to serve as ethical image design strategies and to reflect the ways companies address impactful operations.