Advertisement

Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 77, Issue 2, pp 173–189 | Cite as

Codes of Ethics and the Pursuit of Organizational Legitimacy: Theoretical and Empirical Contributions

  • Brad S. LongEmail author
  • Cathy Driscoll
Article

Abstract

The focus of this paper is to further a discussion of codes of ethics as institutionalized organizational structures that extend some form of legitimacy to organizations. The particular form of legitimacy is of critical importance to our analysis. After reviewing various theories of legitimacy, we analyze the literature on how legitimacy is derived from codes of ethics to discover which specific form of legitimacy is gained from their presence in organizations. We content analyze a sample of codes to consider the question of whether a strategic, self-interested rationale lies behind the adoption of a code of ethics. We propose that the process of employing codes of ethics in this strategic manner has become, through isomorphism, an institutionalized practice that itself confers a cognitive form of legitimacy to the organization and further distances the codes from their moral foundation.

Keywords

codes of ethics isomorphism organizational legitimacy strategic legitimacy 

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Notes

Acknowledgements

The authors would like to thank the two anonymous reviewers for their constructive efforts to improve this paper.

References

  1. 2005, ‚Doing it Right: The TOP 101 Companies of Atlantic Canada Ranked by Revenue’, Progress 12(7), 113–126Google Scholar
  2. Abbott A.: 1988, The System of Professions: An Essay on the Division of Expert Labour. The University of Chicago Press, Chicago, ILGoogle Scholar
  3. Academy of Management: 2006, ‚Code of Ethics Program Comparison’, available at www.aomonline.org/aom.asp?ID = 257&page_ID = 242Google Scholar
  4. Anand V., Ashforth B. E., Joshi M.: 2005, Business as Usual: The Acceptance and Perpetuation of Corruption in Organizations. The Academy of Management Executive 19(4), 9–23Google Scholar
  5. Ashforth B. E., Gibbs B. W.: 1990, The Double-Edge of Organizational Legitimation. Organization Science 1, 177–194Google Scholar
  6. Astley W. G., Van de Ven A. H.: 1983, Central Perspectives and Debates in Organization Theory. Administrative Science Quarterly 28, 245–273CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bauer M. W.: 2000, Classical Content Analysis: A Review”. In M. W. Bauer, G. Gaskell (eds.), Qualitative Researching with Text, Image and Sound: A Practical Handbook. Sage Publications, London, pp. 131–151Google Scholar
  8. Berger P., Luckmann T.: 1966, The Social Construction of Reality: A Treatise in the Sociology of Knowledge. Doubleday and Company, Garden City, NYGoogle Scholar
  9. Boiral O.: 2003, The Certification of Corporate Conduct: Issues and Prospects. International Labour Review 142(3), 317–341CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Burrell G., Morgan G.: 1979, Sociological Paradigms and Organizational Analysis: Elements of the Sociology of Corporate Life. Heinemann, LondonGoogle Scholar
  11. Dacin M. T.: 1997, Isomorphism in Context: The Power and Prescription of Institutional Norms. Academy of Management Journal 40(1), 46–81CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Daft R. L., Weick K. E.: 1984, Toward a Model of Organizations as Interpretation Systems. Academy of Management Review 9(2), 284–295CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Deephouse D. L., Carter S.: 2005, An Examination of Differences between Organizational Legitimacy and Organizational Reputation. The Journal of Management Studies 42(2), 329–341CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. DiMaggio P.: 1988, Interest and Agency in Institutional Theory. In L. Zucker (ed.), Institutional Patterns and Organizations: Culture and Environment. Ballinger Publishing Company, Cambridge, MA, pp. 3–21Google Scholar
  15. DiMaggio P., Powell W.: 1983, The Iron Cage Revisited: Institutional Isomorphism and Collective Rationality in Organizational Fields. American Sociological Review 48(2), 147–160CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Donaldson T.: 1983, Constructing a Social Contract for Business. In T. Donaldson, P. Werhane (eds.), Ethical Issues in Business. Oxford University Press, New York, NY, pp. 153–165Google Scholar
  17. Dowling J. B., Pfeffer J.: 1975, Organizational Legitimation. Pacific Sociological Review 18(1), 122–136Google Scholar
  18. Elsbach J. M., Sutton R. I.: 1992, Acquiring Organizational Legitimacy through Illegitimate Actions: A Marriage of Institutional and Impression Management Theories. Academy of Management Journal 35(4), 699–738CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Fairclough N.: 1992, Discourse and Social Change. Polity Press, Cambridge, MAGoogle Scholar
  20. Fogarty T. J.: 1995, Accountant Ethics: A Brief Examination of Neglected Sociological Dimensions. Journal of Business Ethics 14(2), 103–116CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Glynn M. A., Azbug R.: 2002, Institutionalizing Identity: Symbolic Isomorphism and Organizational Names. Academy of Management Journal 45(1), 267–280CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Guthrie J., Petty R., Yongvanich K., Ricceri F.: 2004, Using Content Analysis as a Research Method to Inquire into Intellectual Capital Reporting. Journal of Intellectual Capital 5(2), 282–293CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Johnson P., Smith K.: 1999, Contextualizing Business Ethics: Anomie and Social Life. Human Relations 52(11), 1351–1376Google Scholar
  24. Kaptein M.: 2004, Business Codes of Multinational Firms: What Do They Say?. Journal of Business Ethics 50(1), 13–33CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Kelly M.: 2005, The Ethics Revolution. Business Ethics 19(2), 6Google Scholar
  26. Lindsay R. M., Lindsay L. M., Irvine B.: 1996, Instilling Ethical Behaviour in Organizations: A Survey of Canadian Companies. Journal of Business Ethics 15(4), 393–408CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Meyer J. W., Rowan B.: 1977, Institutionalized Organizations: Formal Structure as Myth and Ceremony. American Journal of Sociology 83, 340–363CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Neilson E. H., Rao M. V. H.: 1987, The Strategy-Legitimacy Nexus: A Thick Description. Academy of Management Review 15, 523–533CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Nystrom, P. and W. Starbuck: 1984, ‚Organizational Facades’, Proceedings of the Academy of Management Conference, Boston, MA, pp. 182–186Google Scholar
  30. O’Donovan G.: 2002, Environmental Disclosures in the Annual Report: Extending the Applicability and Predictive Power of Legitimacy Theory. Accounting, Auditing and Accountability Journal 15(3), 344–372CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Oliver C.: 1991, Strategic Responses to Institutional Processes. Academy of Management Review 16, 145–179CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Pfeffer J., Salancik G. R.: 1978, The External Control of Organizations: A Resource Dependence Perspective. Harper and Row, New York, NYGoogle Scholar
  33. Preston A. M., Cooper D. J., Scarbrough D. P., Chilton R. C.: 1995, Changes in the Code of Ethics of the U.S. Accounting Profession, 1917 and 1998: The Continual Quest for Legitimation. Accounting, Organizations and Society 20(6), 507–546CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Sacconi L.: 1999, Codes of Ethics as Contractarian Constraints on the Abuse of Authority within Hierarchies: A Perspective from the Theory of the Firm. Journal of Business Ethics 21(2/3), 189–203CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Schwartz M.: 2002, A Code of Ethics for Corporate Code of Ethics. Journal of Business Ethics 41(1/2), 27–44CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Schwartz M.: 2004, Effective Corporate Codes of Ethics: Perceptions of Code Users. Journal of Business Ethics 55(4), 323–343CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Scott R.: 1995, Institutions and Organizations. Sage Publications, Thousand Oaks, CAGoogle Scholar
  38. SEDAR: n.d., available at www.sedar.com/homepage_en.htmGoogle Scholar
  39. Selznick P.: 1966, TVA and the Grassroots: A Study in the Sociology of Formal Organization. Harper and Row, New York, NYGoogle Scholar
  40. Silverman D.: 1970, The Theory of Organizations. Basic Books, New York, NYGoogle Scholar
  41. Suchman M.: 1995, Managing Legitimacy: Strategic and Institutional Approaches. Academy of Management Review 20, 571–610CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Tolbert P. S., Zucker L.: 1983, Institutional Sources of Change in the Formal Structure of Organizations: The Diffusion of Civil Service Reform, 1880–1935. Administrative Science Quarterly 28(1), 22–39CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Warren R.: 2003, The Evolution of Business Legitimacy. European Business Review 15(3), 153–163CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Wartick S. L., Cochran P. L.: 1985, The Evolution of the Corporate Social Performance Model. Academy of Management Review 10, 758–769CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Weaver G. R., Trevino L. K., Cochran P. L.: 1999, Corporate Ethics Programs as Control Systems: Influences of Executive Commitment and Environmental Factors. Academy of Management Journal 42(1), 41–57CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Weber, M.: 1956, Economy and Society: An Outline of Interpretive Sociology, Vol. 1 (University of California Press, Berkeley, CA) 1978 printingGoogle Scholar
  47. Weber R. P.: 1990, Basic Content Analysis. 2. Sage, Newbury Park, CAGoogle Scholar
  48. Wood D. J.: 1991, Corporate Social Performance Revisited. Academy of Management Review 16, 691–718CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Zucker L.: 1988, Where Do Institutional Patterns Come From? Organizations as Actors in Social Systems. In L. Zucker (ed.), Institutional Patterns and Organizations: Culture and Environment. Ballinger Publishing Company, Cambridge, MA, pp. 23–49Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Business AdministrationSt. Francis Xavier UniversityAntigonishCanada
  2. 2.Sobey School of BusinessSaint Mary’s UniversityHalifaxCanada

Personalised recommendations