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Can companies buy legitimacy? Using corporate political strategies to offset negative corporate social responsibility records

Ekin Alakent (Department of Management, California State University: East Bay, Hayward, California, USA)
Mine Ozer (Department of Management, State University of New York at Oneonta (SUNY: Oneonta), Oneonta, New York, USA)

Journal of Strategy and Management

ISSN: 1755-425X

Article publication date: 11 November 2014




Organizational legitimacy is greatly influenced by firm corporate social responsibility (CSR) records. An organization with a poor CSR record can either try to improve its practices or attempt to manipulate institutional norms and belief systems in order to convince the society that its practices are acceptable. The authors argue that firms’ corporate political strategies (CPS) – attempts by firms to influence public policy outcomes in a favorable way – can be very effective in shaping legitimacy norms and offsetting negative public image. The purpose of this paper is to draw on institutional theory and propose that firms with negative CSR records consider investing in political strategies necessary in order to construct new legitimate standards in line with their strategies.


The authors test the hypotheses on 348 manufacturing firms using data from “The Center for Responsive Politics.” MSCI (formerly known as KLD) and COMPUSTAT. Research methodology used to test hypotheses is hierarchical ordinary least square regression analysis.


The authors find that firms with high CSR concerns invest more in CPSs. In addition, the results indicate that organizational visibility and organizational slack positively moderate this relationship. In other words, visible firms and firms with high organizational slack invest more in CPSs if they are facing CSR concerns compared to firms that are less visible and with less organizational slack.

Research limitations/implications

In this paper, the authors focus on the corporate governance dimension of CSR. Although focussing on the negative corporate governance practices gives us an opportunity to have a more focused approach, there are other important aspects of CSR such as environmental practices, employment issues, and accounting practices that are not addressed in this study.

Practical implications

This paper can serve as a testament to the value of investing in political strategies to the practitioners. The results indicate that firms can manage their image and reputation through political spending and this is especially true for firms that are more visible and have more organizational slack.


Much of the previous literature explores the relationship between market factors such as financial status of the firm and political strategies. This paper contributes to the literature by showing that other non-market forces such as poor social standing can also motivate companies to invest in political strategies.



Alakent, E. and Ozer, M. (2014), "Can companies buy legitimacy? Using corporate political strategies to offset negative corporate social responsibility records", Journal of Strategy and Management, Vol. 7 No. 4, pp. 318-336.



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