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Dear Sir, we are not an NGO

Dear Sir, we are not an NGO

Vandekerckhove, Wim ORCID: 0000-0002-0106-7915 and Leys, Jos (2012) Dear Sir, we are not an NGO. Journal of Sustainable Finance & Investment, 2 (2). pp. 152-161. ISSN 2043-0795 (Print), 2043-0809 (Online) (doi:

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With the financial crisis, socially responsible investment (SRI) has gained attention. SRI designates a variety of rationales and techniques for including non-financial criteria into investment decisions. One technique of SRI consists of investors engaging with investee corporations on issues of concern. The aim is twofold. First, the investor hopes to get more information on corporate policies and practices with regard to allegations of improper behaviour, made by third parties (NGOs, unions, press). Second, the investor tries to influence these practices by signalling investor concern to top management over certain issues. However, the engagement process itself remains opaque, especially in Europe where shareholder activism (SRI activists voting at AGM) is relatively unknown, and where ‘soft engagement’ (behind-closed-doors-dialogue) is more popular. This article takes an organizational rhetoric approach to provide insights into the complexities and ambiguities that are at play in the interaction between representatives of SRI investors and corporations. We use data from an investor engagement process (letters to and from management and boards of investee corporations) on three cases of corporate activities in Myanmar. Our findings are that the investor initiative has a hard time getting investees to answer a number of straightforward questions about the investee's risk exposure and risk management with regard to being involved in breaches of International Labour Organization core conventions. From our organizational rhetoric analysis we offer plausible explanations for this both on investor side (ambiguity of intent, lack of credibility on investor side) and on corporate side (ambiguity of audience to respond to, lack of engagement experience, the assumption that moral arguments are expected rather than proper risk management).

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: [1] Accepted: 29 February 2012. [2] First published: April 2012. [3] Published online: 21 June 2012.
Uncontrolled Keywords: engagement dialogue, ethical claims, investor relations, socially responsible investment, speech act theory
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HC Economic History and Conditions
H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor > HD28 Management. Industrial Management
Faculty / School / Research Centre / Research Group: Faculty of Business > Centre for Work and Employment Research (CREW) > Work & Employment Research Unit (WERU)
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Last Modified: 14 Oct 2016 09:19

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