In this essay, the author reflects on the legitimacy theory in corporate social responsibility (CSR) disclosure research.
This is a reflection/review essay based on a review of relevant literature.
Although almost constantly under attack from a variety of scholars, legitimacy theory seems to hold on in the social and environmental disclosure arena. However, the failure of the recent wave of CSR-themed work published in The Accounting Review to even acknowledge, let alone engage with, the theory is problematic.
We, in the CSR disclosure arena, need to do all we can to help emerging scholars (particularly in the USA) find the rich body of research the mainstream journals fail to discuss.
Legitimacy-based research can help move CSR disclosure at least closer to being a tool of accountability, as opposed to a tool for legitimation.
Perhaps the critique of the mainstream North American literature’s failure to consider legitimacy theory can lead to the recognition of the need to focus on the harm to sustainability that a narrow, shareholder-centric focus leads to.
This reflection takes a unique look at the contributions of legitimacy theory to CSR disclosure research.
Patten, D. (2019), "Seeking legitimacy", Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print. https://doi.org/10.1108/SAMPJ-12-2018-0332Download as .RIS
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