Organizational Legitimacy

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is one option to foster reputation, image or legitimacy of organizations. Although institutional theories put organizational legitimacy in the center of research, we still lack research about the individual evaluation of legitimacy. Organizational legitimacy is a generalized evaluation that the organization is in accordance with relevant norms and values of the society. We empirically investigate how individual stakeholders evaluate organizational legitimacy.  

How does a generalized organizational legitimacy on the societal level come into being (macro-level)?


If the assumption of a micro foundation of macro pheno-mena is true, individual evaluations of organizational legitimacy are necessary (1). Therefore, our first projects investigate evaluations of individuals. A secold step will built on these studies and analyze processes that aggregate individual evaluations (2) to form a generalized evaluation (3). This could lead to research about the factors that build the licence to operate.

In the first project, we develop a model that demonstrates the role of attributed motives and corporate credibility for the evaluation of organizational legitimacy and test this model with an experimental vignette study. Our results show that when a corporate activity creates benefits for the firm—in addition to social benefits—individuals attribute more extrinsic motives. Extrinsic motives are ascribed when a corporation is perceived as being driven by external rewards as opposed to an altruistic commitment to a social cause. Extrinsic motives negatively affect corporate credibility and organizational legitimacy judgments. This article contributes to a better understanding of the complex process of organizational legitimacy judgment by shedding light on the individual’s perspective and expounding the relationship between       attributed motives, corporate credibility, and organizational legitimacy. (Quoted from the abstract of Jahn, Eichhorn and Brühl, 2017)

 Research partner: Dipl.-Psych. Melanie Eichhorn; Dr. Johannes Jahn, M.Sc.


Jahn, Johannes, Eichhorn, Melanie, Brühl, Rolf: How do individuals judge organizational legitimacy? Effects of attributed motives and credibility on organizational legitimacy, in: Business & Society, 2017, S. 1-32

(zum Artikel). 


Partner of Research Center

Our research project is part of the research center of Sustainability of ESCP Europe (Research Center on Sustainability at ESCP Europe) that deals with issues of sustainability and corporate social responsibility .