Unpacking the Roles of Shareholder Engagement Intermediaries: A Case Study of an Engagement Process on Carbon Risk
Posted: 9 Aug 2019
Date Written: April 13, 2019
Many institutional investors are spending considerable resources on engaging with companies on environmental, social, and governance (ESG) issues through dialogue, to promote the adoption of enhanced sustainability practice and reporting. At the same time, little is known about the roles played by intermediary organizations to which such engagement is often delegated, nor about how the use of an intermediary may shape the engagement process. To address this question, we conducted a qualitative case study of a three-year thematic engagement project on carbon risk focused on twenty energy companies and conducted by a single manager at one intermediary organization. Relying on a unique archival access capturing the log of dialogues between an engagement intermediary and twenty multinational corporations (MNCs) and supporting interviews, we identify and conceptualize four roles performed by engagement intermediaries to elicit companies’ responses: business diplomats, communication managers, soft regulators, and free sustainability coach and consultant. Our results highlight how these roles are mobilized through the engagement process in ways that help manage saliency in practice to enhance the impact of engagement on companies.
Keywords: ESG, engagement, social practice, occupational roles, carbon risk
JEL Classification: M14, G15, G23
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