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Strategic Orientation Toward Sustainability: The Role of Investor Relations Officers Open Access

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This dissertation is a study of role-players involved in corporate strategy-setting. In particular, investor relations officers' role in the formulation of their firms' strategic orientation toward sustainability is explored for insights into the relationships among broader sets of key internal role-players and their stakeholders. Among corporate role-players below chief-level executives, investor relations officers (IROs) are shown to be positioned as "boundary-spanners" and pivotal to inbound and outbound communication with a broad range of external stakeholders, making them uniquely relevant and identifiable in public companies. They influence strategy in both its formulation and communication aspects, especially with respect to their firms' strategic orientation toward emerging, imprecise, and stakeholder-responsiveness issues - among which, the issue of sustainability is presently prominent. As research subjects, IROs are reliably definable and accessible, presently with data uniquely available through the author's collaboration with the (U.S.) National Investor Relations Institute.The study uses a mixed-methods design to obtain from IROs both quantitative information from an online survey, completed by 81 respondents, and qualitative insights from semi-structured interviews, conducted with 12 interviewees. From survey data it is established that valid constructs can be derived that reflect IROs' individual sustainability orientations and their firms' sustainability orientations, and that these constructs are correlated. However, a construct derived for IROs' influence within their firms did not moderate the relationship between the other two constructs as expected. Insights from the follow-up interviews clarify and augment these empirical findings.Contributions include a richer understanding of strategic orientations within firms, and their origins among key managerial role-players. The focal intersection of sustainability orientation and IROs is argued to have relevance to far broader types of strategic orientations and managers. Usefulness of the findings is discussed with respect to academicians, practitioners, executives, and others who hold a stake in the outcomes of corporate strategy-making, especially as regards the emergent issue of sustainability. Finally, recommendations for future research are offered.

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