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Rebecca Stratling ORCID logo


Based on deliberations on the legitimacy of CSR from the perspective of stakeholder and legitimacy theory on the one hand and the more critical view of Milton Friedman and Michael Jenson on the other hand, this paper analyses how major energy companies legitimise their CSR activities in their Annual Reports and their CSR reports. The research indicates that managers recognise the potential contribution of CSR to long-term financial performance of firms as well as the need to socially legitimise the firm’s operations. A surprisingly limited number of the companies in the sample take a very explicit strategic approach to CSR by stressing long-term shareholder value maximisation. The CSR policies therefore appear not to focus solely on a strategic stakeholder approach geared towards maximising shareholder value but to reflect considerations raised by legitimacy theory.

Keywords: Corporate Governance, Corporate Social Responsibility, Legitimacy

How to cite this paper: Stratling, R. (2007). The legitimacy of corporate social responsibility. Corporate Ownership & Control, 4(4), 80-88.