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Use of visuals in sustainability reporting by New Zealand Stock Exchange (NZX) listed companies: an impression management perspective

Mahmood Ahmed Momin (Department of Accounting, Auckland University of Technology, Auckland, New Zealand)
Zahir Uddin Ahmed (Department of Accounting, Auckland University of Technology, Auckland, New Zealand)
Renhe Liu (Department of Accounting, Auckland University of Technology, Auckland, New Zealand)

Asian Review of Accounting

ISSN: 1321-7348

Article publication date: 9 December 2022

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Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this research is to investigate the use of visuals in communicating symbolic sustainability information by the New Zealand Stock Exchange (NZX) listed companies through their standalone sustainability reports.

Design/methodology/approach

Using the impression management theoretical framework and Barthes' conceptions of denotation and connotation, the study seeks to examine the way visuals, such as photos, tables and figures, are used to convey symbolic sustainability messages and information. The content analysis method was used to analyse 1,064 visuals from 20 New Zealand Stock Exchange listed companies' standalone sustainability reports for 2017.

Findings

The authors observe variations in the use of visuals to convey messages about sustainability and the appeal of these visuals to readers in the process of creating a symbolic sustainability message. While photos focus on emotions as their main method of impression management, tables and figures focus on the logical link between readers and a positive sustainability message.

Research limitations/implications

The study adds to the impression management theory work that companies use a combination of photos, tables and figures in communicating symbolic positive sustainability messages. The insights inform the corporate culture of the use of visuals and the effect of future reporting practices regarding sustainability information in New Zealand and globally.

Originality/value

Unlike other studies on sustainability reporting, we contend that a company uses a combination of visuals to create impressions that include not only positive but also negative and neutral sustainability messages.

Keywords

Citation

Momin, M.A., Ahmed, Z.U. and Liu, R. (2022), "Use of visuals in sustainability reporting by New Zealand Stock Exchange (NZX) listed companies: an impression management perspective", Asian Review of Accounting, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print. https://doi.org/10.1108/ARA-04-2022-0078

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2022, Emerald Publishing Limited

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