Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 137, Issue 1, pp 31–51 | Cite as

Managing Institutional Complexity: A Longitudinal Study of Legitimacy Strategies at a Sportswear Brand Company

  • Dorothee Baumann-Pauly
  • Andreas Georg Scherer
  • Guido Palazzo


Multinational corporations are operating in complex business environments. They are confronted with contradictory institutional demands that often represent mutually incompatible expectations of various audiences. Managing these demands poses new organizational challenges for the corporation. Conducting an empirical case study at the sportswear manufacturer Puma, we explore how multinational corporations respond to institutional complexity and what legitimacy strategies they employ to maintain their license to operate. We draw on the literature on institutional theory, contingency theory, and organizational paradoxes. The results of our qualitative longitudinal study show that managing corporate legitimacy is a dynamic process in which corporations adapt organizational capacities, structures, and procedures.


Globalization Legitimacy Institutional complexity Paradox Corporate social responsibility 



We would like to thank the interview partners of this study for their time and commitment. We are particularly grateful for the support of Reiner Hengstmann, Stefan Seidel, and Charmaine Nuguid-Anden from the Puma S.A.F.E. department. We also thank the Swiss National Science Foundation for their financial support.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Dorothee Baumann-Pauly
    • 1
  • Andreas Georg Scherer
    • 2
  • Guido Palazzo
    • 3
  1. 1.NYU Stern School of BusinessNew YorkUSA
  2. 2.University of ZurichZürichSwitzerland
  3. 3.Faculty of Business and Economics (HEC Lausanne)University of LausanneLausanneSwitzerland

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