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Sustainability and legitimacy theory: The case of sustainable social and environmental practices of small and medium‐sized enterprises
Business Strategy and the Environment, Volume: 30, Issue: 8, Pages: 1 - 45
Swansea University Author: Mohamed Elmagrhi
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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...
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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.
School of Management