The Sustainable Development Goals as a Language: An Analysis of Danish Institutional Investors Discourse on Sustainability

Ana Belen Martinez Guillen

Student thesis: Master thesis


The launch UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in 2015 have appeared in a particular time for the financial industry, where the pressure to be responsible as social actors and to work towards a more sustainable world is increasing every day. Thus, investors to a larger extent are incorporating sustainability and the SDGs are starting to be addressed in their communications and strategies, especially in Denmark. Much has been studied about the integration of the SDG by businesses, however, how investors are starting to use the SDGs in their discourse has not been analyzed yet.
Hence, this research will be a cross sectional qualitative study of the four largest and most significative Danish institutional investors that are the frontrunners in communicating about the SDGs, to understand how are perceived and what they are doing to integrate them, identifying its challenges and opportunities. By using a three-fold theoretical framework on Critical Discourse Analysis developed by Fairclough, the aim of this research will be to explore how the SDGs are being used by institutional investors, by analyzing the text, the perceptions and the context of the discourse.
The analysis shows that SDGs are mainly used by the investors as a language to communicate their sustainability strategy, as they have already been addressing sustainability issues by the integration of Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) factors into their strategy. In this regard, the integration of the SDGs by Danish institutional investors could be seen as a recontextualization of a sustainability discourse to the financial context, in order to be understood by different audiences and not only inside the industry. Mainly motivated by market positioning, institutional investors are trying to make sense about how to adapt the SDGs into their strategies, evaluating opportunities and challenges. Nevertheless, their legitimization as agents of change seems to be given not only by the integration of the SDGs, but by their strategy and management of the ESG factors in general.
This study is limited to the analysis of the discourse of the four Danish institutional investors frontrunners in communicating about the SDGs in a specific moment, as it will useful to shed some light in how the field might develop in the future. Further research could be made in this regard, 3 considering a broader sample as well as other geographical locations or the evolution of perceptions over time.
This research will be of relevance for the academia as it offers a new approach to the sustainability field. Additionally, it would be inspirational for investors that would like to address and communicate about the SDGs, as it offers guidance on its opportunities and shortcomings. Finally, it will be for interest for investors in other locations and institutions as it presents a clear picture about the industry of Responsible Investments in Denmark.

EducationsMaster of Business, Language and Culture; Business and Devlopment, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2020
Number of pages91