Maintaining Moral Legitimacy through Worlds and Words: An Explanation of Firms' Investment in Sustainability Certification

Richards, M., Zellweger, T. & Gond, J-P. (2017). Maintaining Moral Legitimacy through Worlds and Words: An Explanation of Firms' Investment in Sustainability Certification. Journal of Management Studies, 54(5), pp. 676-710. doi: 10.1111/joms.12249

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Abstract

A prominent way for firms to manage their moral legitimacy is to invest in sustainability certifications. However, a significant subset of firms remain reluctant to invest in sustainability certifications even decades after the establishment of such certifications. Our paper seeks to elucidate this variance by exploring how firms in the coffee, tea, and chocolate industries legitimise themselves on moral grounds through external communication to stakeholders. Drawing on insights from French Pragmatist Sociology, we suggest that firms primarily rely on two distinct sets of legitimacy principles that reflect their identity orientation: the ‘civic and green’ world and the ‘domestic’ world. Specifically, our results show that reliance on the domestic world is negatively related to firms' investment in sustainability certifications. Our findings also suggest that the strength of the relationship between these distinct methods of moral legitimising and certification varies depending on whether firms are characterised by first- or multi-generation family control.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: This is the peer reviewed version of the following article: Richards, M., Zellweger, T. and Gond, J.-P. (2017), Maintaining Moral Legitimacy through Worlds and Words: An Explanation of Firms' Investment in Sustainability Certification. Jour. of Manage. Stud., 54: 676–710., which has been published in final form at http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/joms.12249. This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Wiley Terms and Conditions for Self-Archiving.
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor > HD28 Management. Industrial Management
Divisions: Cass Business School > Faculty of Management
URI: http://openaccess.city.ac.uk/id/eprint/17835

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