City Research Online

Mirroring and switching authoritative personae: A ventriloquial analysis of shareholder engagement on carbon emissions

Slager, R., Gond, J-P. ORCID: 0000-0002-9331-6957 & Sjostrom, E. (2023). Mirroring and switching authoritative personae: A ventriloquial analysis of shareholder engagement on carbon emissions. Human Relations, doi: 10.1177/00187267231174700


We examine how the authority of investors to speak about climate change with corporations is established. Leveraging the ‘communication as constitutive of organizations’ (CCO) perspective, we analyse who speaks on behalf of whom (or what) in shareholder engagement on corporate carbon emissions. Based on access to private dialogues between an engager acting on behalf of a pool of investors with twenty utility corporations, we identify how three authoritative personae—that of diplomat, advocate and coach—convey climate change concerns. We find that the mirroring of these authoritative personae by corporations may lead to deliberation, evasion, or rejection of the suggested courses of action. We theorise how relational authority is communicatively constituted in shareholder engagement through a process of mirroring and switching between authoritative personae. Our framework contributes to the study of CCO and relational authority by highlighting how meta-figures are used by external actors in an attempt to author appropriate corporate actions. We discuss the implications of our framework for the role of shareholder engagement in current attempts at greening financial capitalism.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: Copyright © 2023, the authors.
Publisher Keywords: Communication as constitutive of organizations (CCO), Shareholder engagement, Sustainability, Carbon emissions, Ventriloquism, Relational authority
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HC Economic History and Conditions
H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor
H Social Sciences > HG Finance
H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
Departments: Bayes Business School > Management
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