Corporate social responsibility as a legitimacy maintenance strategy in the professional accountancy firm

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Abstract

This paper investigates how accountancy firms use corporate social responsibility (CSR) as a device to maintain legitimacy with key constituents. It explores who these constituents (audiences) are for their CSR actions and the strategies they use to maintain legitimacy with these audiences. Interview-based evidence from 18 large accountancy firms in the United Kingdom (UK) identifies the main CSR constituents as: clients and potential clients of the firm; graduates as potential entrants to the industry; internal audiences represented by the firms’ staff and partners; and other external audiences constructed as members of those local communities in which the firm operate. In the largest firms, maintaining pragmatic legitimacy with some client, graduate and internal audiences is frequently dependent on the development of moral legitimacy established with other external constituents (communities). Consequently, the typologies of legitimacy developed are largely pragmatic, the most ephemeral and most easily attained form, rather than something that is enduring, embedded and taken-for-granted.
Original languageEnglish
JournalThe British Accounting Review
Early online date4 Aug 2017
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 4 Aug 2017

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Corporate Social Responsibility
Legitimacy
Accountancy
Maintenance strategy
Staff
Local communities
Large firms
Industry

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title = "Corporate social responsibility as a legitimacy maintenance strategy in the professional accountancy firm",
abstract = "This paper investigates how accountancy firms use corporate social responsibility (CSR) as a device to maintain legitimacy with key constituents. It explores who these constituents (audiences) are for their CSR actions and the strategies they use to maintain legitimacy with these audiences. Interview-based evidence from 18 large accountancy firms in the United Kingdom (UK) identifies the main CSR constituents as: clients and potential clients of the firm; graduates as potential entrants to the industry; internal audiences represented by the firms’ staff and partners; and other external audiences constructed as members of those local communities in which the firm operate. In the largest firms, maintaining pragmatic legitimacy with some client, graduate and internal audiences is frequently dependent on the development of moral legitimacy established with other external constituents (communities). Consequently, the typologies of legitimacy developed are largely pragmatic, the most ephemeral and most easily attained form, rather than something that is enduring, embedded and taken-for-granted.",
author = "Angus Duff",
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AB - This paper investigates how accountancy firms use corporate social responsibility (CSR) as a device to maintain legitimacy with key constituents. It explores who these constituents (audiences) are for their CSR actions and the strategies they use to maintain legitimacy with these audiences. Interview-based evidence from 18 large accountancy firms in the United Kingdom (UK) identifies the main CSR constituents as: clients and potential clients of the firm; graduates as potential entrants to the industry; internal audiences represented by the firms’ staff and partners; and other external audiences constructed as members of those local communities in which the firm operate. In the largest firms, maintaining pragmatic legitimacy with some client, graduate and internal audiences is frequently dependent on the development of moral legitimacy established with other external constituents (communities). Consequently, the typologies of legitimacy developed are largely pragmatic, the most ephemeral and most easily attained form, rather than something that is enduring, embedded and taken-for-granted.

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