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Sustainability and legitimacy theory: The case of sustainable social and environmental practices of SMEs

Sustainability and legitimacy theory: The case of sustainable social and environmental practices of SMEs
Sustainability and legitimacy theory: The case of sustainable social and environmental practices of SMEs
The aim of this paper is to identify and gain insights into small and medium-sized enterprises’ (SMEs) rationales (‘why’) for engaging in sustainable social and environmental practices (SEPs) that influence social and environmental policy and sustainability changes. Specifically, we depart from the predominately quantitative-orientated SEPs literature by conducting in-depth interviews and analysis of owners and managers of SMEs in the UK within a legitimacy theoretical framework. Our findings from a comprehensive number of interviewees show that SMEs employ a complex mix of both symbolic and substantive SEPs with the aim of enhancing the legitimacy and sustainability of their operations. The results emphasise the strengths of social engagement, reputation and image, environmental embeddedness, industry differentiation and education facilitators. In particular, the paper shows that legitimating strategies can have a dual purpose of being symbolic in nature, but also inferring a substantive legitimacy claim. Evidence of SMEs maintaining their legitimacy position stretches further via either a moral and/or a pragmatic standpoint.
SMEs, social and environmental practices, environmental policy and sustainability, environmental performance, legitimacy theory, substantive and symbolic legitimation, uk census
0964-4733
Crossley, Richard
8ce74811-4413-43dc-867f-d1ed6fe881cf
Elmagrhi, Mohamed H.
4961f329-8a2d-47c5-83ee-34fc058030fe
Ntim, Collins
1f344edc-8005-4e96-8972-d56c4dade46b
Crossley, Richard
8ce74811-4413-43dc-867f-d1ed6fe881cf
Elmagrhi, Mohamed H.
4961f329-8a2d-47c5-83ee-34fc058030fe
Ntim, Collins
1f344edc-8005-4e96-8972-d56c4dade46b

Crossley, Richard, Elmagrhi, Mohamed H. and Ntim, Collins (2021) Sustainability and legitimacy theory: The case of sustainable social and environmental practices of SMEs. Business Strategy and the Environment. (doi:10.1002/bse.2837).

Record type: Article

Abstract

The aim of this paper is to identify and gain insights into small and medium-sized enterprises’ (SMEs) rationales (‘why’) for engaging in sustainable social and environmental practices (SEPs) that influence social and environmental policy and sustainability changes. Specifically, we depart from the predominately quantitative-orientated SEPs literature by conducting in-depth interviews and analysis of owners and managers of SMEs in the UK within a legitimacy theoretical framework. Our findings from a comprehensive number of interviewees show that SMEs employ a complex mix of both symbolic and substantive SEPs with the aim of enhancing the legitimacy and sustainability of their operations. The results emphasise the strengths of social engagement, reputation and image, environmental embeddedness, industry differentiation and education facilitators. In particular, the paper shows that legitimating strategies can have a dual purpose of being symbolic in nature, but also inferring a substantive legitimacy claim. Evidence of SMEs maintaining their legitimacy position stretches further via either a moral and/or a pragmatic standpoint.

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Accepted/In Press date: 16 May 2021
e-pub ahead of print date: 28 May 2021
Keywords: SMEs, social and environmental practices, environmental policy and sustainability, environmental performance, legitimacy theory, substantive and symbolic legitimation, uk census

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 449173
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/449173
ISSN: 0964-4733
PURE UUID: ae0fab30-f859-4ad7-b71a-4bccb3e63d96
ORCID for Collins Ntim: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0002-1042-4056

Catalogue record

Date deposited: 18 May 2021 16:33
Last modified: 26 Nov 2021 02:27

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Contributors

Author: Richard Crossley
Author: Mohamed H. Elmagrhi
Author: Collins Ntim ORCID iD

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