A Speech-Act Model for Talking to Management. Building a Framework for Evaluating Communication within the SRI Engagement Process
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Socially Responsible Investment (SRI) has grown considerably over the past three decades. One form of SRI, engagement-SRI, is today by far the most practiced form of SRI (in assets managed) and has the potential to mainstream SRI even further. However, lack of formalized engagement procedures and evaluation tools leave the engagement practice too opaque for such a mainstreaming. This article can be considered as a first step in the development of a standard for the engagement practice. By developing an engagement heuristic, this article offers a more transparent engagement dialog. Drawing on Stevenson’s and Austin’s speech-act theories, this article develops a classification of management’s responses to the signaling of allegations and controversies on two dimensions: a factual dimension concerning (dis)agreements on factual claims and an attitudinal dimension concerning (dis)agreements on responsibilities, values, and norms. On the basis of the distinctions this article develops, the authors provide for a synoptic table and offer a next-step heuristic for the engagement process that started with signaling a concern to management. The article uses an engagement logic that, while keeping the exit option for the investor open, allows management to address signaled concerns without having to let down or to opt out at the first setback in the dialog process between investor and investee corporation.
KeywordsSRI engagement speech act active shareholdership
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