Can Graphs in Sustainability Reports Actually Manage Impressions? An Analysis from the Investors’ Perspective

Caterina Pesci*, Luca Fornaciari, Alice Medioli, Silvia Triani, Teerooven Soobaroyen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Published conference outputChapter


Impression management is an emerging framework that encompasses a number of possible strategies for favorably impressing the receivers of accountability information. In recent years, there has been the emergence of empirical and theoretical work focusing on the extent and role of visuals (images, graphs, pictures) in accounting and accountability reports. This perspective asserts that a visual device contained in accounting and accountability reports can be a powerful vehicle to manage, distort, and direct readers’ impressions with a view to convey a positive image of the organization in relation to a given subject matter or more generally about the organization itself. Therefore, many studies have used the impression management concept as a lens for interpreting organizational and/or managerial attitudes and motivations underlying the use of visual disclosure. However, what is far less evident from extant research is whether such impression management strategies do actually influence the readers’ decision-making process. This gap in the literature arguably needs to be addressed because there is an impetus to assess the consequences (if any) of impression management studies. Unless there is an assessment of effectiveness of impression management tactics in achieving their presumed intent of presenting organizational disclosures in a more favorable light, there is a risk that the insights from many such studies would be less relevant to the real world. Concretely, and informed by the economic agency-theory-based strand of impression management, this study investigates the idea that a reliance on visual devices (graphs) will have a significant effect on readers’ investment decisions and thereby on market value. From a methodological viewpoint, Ohlson’s (1995) modified model has been used to analyze the impact on market value of graphs contained in sustainability reports of listed companies based in three European Countries (Spain, Italy, and France). The results show that visual/graph information is value relevant, but is negatively associated to market value affects investment decisions. This surprising result and its implications are discussed and problematized in our paper.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication Accounting, Accountability and Society
Subtitle of host publicationTrends and Perspectives in Reporting, Management and Governance for Sustainability
EditorsMara Del Baldo, Jesse Dillard, Maria-Gabriella Baldarelli, Massimo Ciambotti
Number of pages19
ISBN (Electronic)9783030411428
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2020

Publication series

NameCSR, Sustainability, Ethics and Governance
ISSN (Print)2196-7075
ISSN (Electronic)2196-7083


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