The US government agencies and the bureaus regulatory policies and principles are creating both challenging opportunities and threats for the businesses. Evidently, the institutional legacies are affecting the ways in which civil society, industry and NGOs interact together (Camilleri, 2015). This reasoning echoes the legitimacy theory as heterogenous, competing groups of stakeholders often expect and solicit social and environmentally responsible behaviours from businesses. Debatably, the U.S. government and its agencies should ensure that the true ecological cost of environmental degradation and climate change is felt in the market. In this light, there may be scope for U.S. authorities to promote responsible behaviors.
For instance, recently there is an increased awareness on the circular economies that are characterised by their resource efficiency levels and cleaner production through recycling, reducing and reusing materials (EU, 2015; Geng, Fu, Sarkis and Xue, 2012; Geng and Doberstein, 2008).
US corporations should be urged to find alternative ways for sustainable energy generation, energy and water conservation, environmental protection and greener transportation systems. This way, they will be considered as legitimate businesses; as their corporate performance matches their stakeholders’ expectations (Camilleri, 2016; 2015). The organisations’ implementation of their legitimation strategy could include voluntary and solicited CSR disclosures that address norms, values or beliefs of stakeholders (Reverte, 2009). Responsible companies could be in a position to prevent third-party pressures through their engagement in social responsibility practices and sustainable behaviours. At the same time, they could lower the criticisms from the public and minimise their legal cases through their active compliance with regulations and guiding principles.
The organisations’ legitimacy is a critical driver for a dynamic institutional and organisational change (Tost, 2011). The organisations’ evaluative process was also suggested by Scherer et al. (2013) as they discussed about the corporations’ isomorphic adaptation to societal pressures. Yet, such political perspectives have often been considered as being overly normative (Kuhn and Deetz, 2008; Scherer and Palazzo, 2007) and of neglecting the complexity of the debates between corporations and society. Baur and Arenas (2014) also noted that the regulated interactions and the consensus building may not be required if corporations address the sustainable development issues. However, the responsible behavioural issues often call for the re-negotiation of social, economic, and environmental factors among regulatory authorities and other interested parties.
Indeed, addressing the environmental protection often requires shifting through a multitude of complex and often contradictory demands of stakeholders (Camilleri, 2015; Freeman, 2010; Hardy & Phillips, 1998) that are defined beyond nation-state governance institutions. Multiple ethical systems, cultural backgrounds, and rules of behaviour could possibly coexist within the same communities (Scherer & Palazzo, 2007) as the legitimacy of the business community around sustainable development issues is often being challenged (Porter & Kramer, 2011; Scherer & Palazzo, 2011).
Therefore, the stakeholder engagement processes are important instruments for legitimacy building as the pluralist nature of US politics encourages the formation of lobby groups and associations that are often regarded as legitimate representatives (Camilleri, 2016; Doh and Guay, 2006). Other previous research also contended that the legitimacy in resolving social responsibility and sustainable development issues often requires ‘the ability to establish trust-based collaborative relationships with a wide variety of stakeholders especially those with non-economic goals (Sharma & Vredenburg, 1998, p. 735). These stakeholders may have an accepted role in influencing the public policy process.
Excerpt from: Camilleri, M.A. (2016) Corporate Citizenship and Social Responsibility Policies in the United States of America. Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy (Forthcoming)
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