Managing Legitimacy in Complex and Heterogeneous Environments: Sustainable Development in a Globalized World
University of Zurich, Institute of Business Administration, UZH Business Working Paper No. 306
50 Pages Posted: 29 Aug 2012
Date Written: August 27, 2012
The sustainability problems of the production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services increasingly challenges the legitimacy of corporations. Corporate legitimacy, however, is vital to the survival of corporations in competitive environments. The literature distinguishes three strategies that corporations commonly employ to address legitimacy problems: adapt to external expectations, try to manipulate the perception of their stakeholders or engage in a discourse with those who question their legitimacy. This paper develops a theoretical framework for the application of different legitimacy strategies and suggests that corporations facing sustainability problems have to be able to activate all three legitimacy strategies, despite their inherent incompatibilities.
Keywords: corporate legitimacy, corporate responsibility, globalization, institutional theory, paradox, sustainability
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