Business Publications

Document Type


Publication Date





Organization Studies

URL with Digital Object Identifier


Investment managers use financial numbers to assess the quality of their portfolios, which requires them to estimate the market value of their assets—i.e., the priced trading of such assets. Prior research has shown that investment managers tend to disregard information that does not easily integrate into financial numbers, such as environmental, social and governance (ESG) criteria. We argue that when investment managers use visuals to incarnate ESG criteria, they are more likely to accommodate societal issues in their financial decisions. We undertook a three-year ethnography of an asset management company to better understand how investment managers respond to ESG criteria. We found that fixed-income investment managers attempted to include ESG criteria in their financial models by financializing the data, so that ESG-related information could be commensurated with their existing models. Equity investment managers, on the other hand, did not financialize ESG issues, but introduced the use of visuals, specifically emojis, to incarnate ESG issues. In this way, ESG criteria were juxtaposed with, rather than integrated into, financial criteria. In doing so, equity managers created a sense of dissonance between financial numbers and the visuals, which fostered creative friction. The visuals permitted equity managers to analyze the ESG criteria not only for their financial insights, but also for the social and environmental information that could not be financialized. We discuss the implications of these findings for prior research on financialization and calculative devices.


This document is an authors' post-print which is permitted for archiving within an institutional repository. The final, published document is published in Organization Studies and can be found with the DOI:

Find in your library



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.