Sense-Making and Sense-Giving: Reaching Through the Smokescreen of Sustainability Disclosure in the Stock Market

  • Susanne ArvidssonEmail author
  • Jeaneth Johansson


Financial analysts’ role as information intermediaries between management teams and investors is vital for the efficient allocation of resources on the stock market. The increased focus on sustainability information in corporate reports has affected financial analysts in their important work of interpreting, assessing and communicating value-added information to their clients, i.e. the investors. The challenges they face relate to the ambiguous nature of sustainability information and its difference from traditional financial information. How do analysts reach through this smokescreen? How do analysts make sense of sustainability information, and how do they give sense to this information when they provide investment advices to their investors? In this chapter, these challenges are addressed from a cognitive-frame perspective. We argue that the first part of 2000s was characterized by cognitive dissonance due to both a low social legitimacy and a low cognitive legitimacy, i.e. sustainability was not yet requested by the investors to be attended to and it was regarded too ambiguous to be relevant for being considered in a valuation context. In the latter part of 2010s, we argue that there is only a partial cognitive dissonance. At this time, sustainability information is beginning to be socially legitimate and requested by investors. However, the complexity of the situation remains. This type of information is still not considered as cognitive legitimate due to the ambiguous nature, which renders difficulties for the sense-making and sense-giving processes. The findings have implications not the least in the ongoing quest of developing frameworks, standards and legislation (e.g. the EU directive (2014/EU/95)), that opt for improving the relevance, credibility and comparability of sustainability information.


Sustainability information Financial analysts Cognitive frames Cognitive dissonance Sense-making Sense-giving Social legitimacy Cognitive legitimacy 


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© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Economics and ManagementLund UniversityLundSweden
  2. 2.Lulea University of TechnologyLuleaSweden
  3. 3.Halmstad UniversityHalmstadSweden

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