Market Agents' Social Representations of SRI

Market Agents' Social Representations of SRI

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-7619-8.ch007
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In August 2008, exploratory expert interviews were conducted with 94 financial investors and executives of the New York financial community on their perception of SRI. The semi-structured interviews featuring open-ended questions and collected free associations on SRI. The categorization of the contents sheds light on investors' and fiduciaries' interpretation of SRI. A core-and-periphery analysis depicted the main and emerging contents of the common body of knowledge on SRI. Investors and financial fiduciaries are ambiguous about SRI. While they attribute profitability, long-term perspectives, and innovative future potential with SRI, the majority of respondents also revealed knowledge deficiencies regarding the disparate branches of SRI. At the same time, SRI evoked efficiency considerations, fiduciary responsibility predicaments, and associations about losses of degrees of freedom. SRI is seen as a market-dependent and volatile niche market option. Future improvements for SRI must raise SRI's effectiveness in addressing social deficiencies and create a higher degree of accountability.
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In order to promote a successful rise of financial social responsibility, one has to understand the key players’ view on SRI. The following part is targeted at answering the question: How do actual market agents perceive SRI? Understanding financial leaders’ SRI notion may serve as a first step towards resolving socio-economic losses imbued in market agents’ hesitance to integrate the concept in everyday financial investment decision making. Overall the following part strives to promote socially conscientious investment and thereby aims at the greater goal of fostering positive societal change.

Research Questions and Hypotheses

An exploratory analysis of different SRI notions will address the following questions:

  • 1.

    In what way is SRI defined and perceived by financial executives?

  • 2.

    What motives trigger corporations to administer and exhibiting SRI?


Sampling: To depict investors’ view of SRI, 94 financial investors and financial executives comprising investors, financial managers and mutual fund holders of the NYSE and the World Financial Centers were surveyed on their perception of SRI. A non-representative convenience sample was collected of English speaking financial executives at the NYSE and the World Financial Centers in August 2008 (see Table 1).

Table 1.
Sample selection
Data Collection
Investors and Financial Managers at the NYSE and World Financial Center I, II and III
Operationalization: Face-to-face exploratory interviews

Data Collection: The study was carried out during August 2008 at the NYSE as well as the World Financial Centers I, II and III. All respondents of the convenience sample were financial experts and participated on a voluntary basis. The presented exploratory study targeted at market agents’ perception of SRI. At first, the respondents had to identify whether they would consider themselves as Financial market agents. If so, they were asked as an introduction question “What do you think about socially responsible investment?” The openended question was targeted at collecting free associations on SRI. The rest of the unstandardized interviews were based on the response to the first question.

Free Associating of Market Agents: The survey was based on a semi-structured interview (see Table 2). The open-ended questions targeted at collecting free associations on SRI and motives for administering SRI. The collected associations shed light on SRI motives. Shortterm interviews with open-ended questions were pursued as the optimum means for free expression (The Human Relations Movement, 2008). The interviews were targeted at triggering a conversation in which the financial experts were encouraged to express themselves freely about the topic.

Table 2.
Free associations on “Socially Responsible Investment”Q1: What do you think about “Socially Responsible Investment“?
Follow up questionQ2: What motives do you think influence corporations to exhibit social responsibility?

In many cases additional information on the SRI concept had to be provided. SRI was thereby described as an investment option that may feature positive and negative screening or political divestiture. These terms were explained and multiple examples provided. The free associations of investors and fiduciaries were collected and taped.

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