Document Type


Publication Date

January 2013


This article introduces corporate historical responsibility (CHR), a concept that can guide organizations when addressing dark corporate histories. CHR holds that organizations have responsibilities toward victims of past corporate practices and toward present reconciliatory discourse. Volkswagen’s discourse about its history of forced labor during WW II serves as an example of CHR. The rhetorical analysis illustrates that CHR hinges on the recognition of the past as a moral issue and on the organization’s ability to create historical accountability, take responsibility, make public acknowledgements, and remember its past. It further illustrates that CHR creates sustainable policies that can strengthen corporate citizenship and serve as a means of (re-)legitimation. In order to repair broken relationships, the article concludes, organizational leaders need to overcome primary concerns with liability and invest in a shared and long-term CHR process that creates spaces for ongoing discourse about the past.


This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor and Francis in the Journal of Applied Communication Research, available online: