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Securing organizational legitimacy: An experimental decision case examining the impact of environmental disclosures

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This paper explores the role that environmental disclosures might play in producing a legitimating effect on investors within the context of the chemical industry. By way of an experimental decision case it examines effects of negative, and the offsetting effects of positive, environmental disclosures surrounding chemical firms' liabilities for toxic waste site liabilities. The paper outlines the theoretical bases for the process of organizational legitimation, and sets the decision experiment in a detailed historical analysis of the toxic waste problems of the 1970s that led to the enactment of legislation requiring clean up and imposing significant liabilities on chemical firms. The results from the decision experiment, which indicate that under some circumstances positive disclosures can restore or repair an organization's legitimacy, are discussed in the context of the earlier theoretical and historical analysis.
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Keywords: Chemical Industry; Decision Making; Disclosure; Investment; Liability; Toxic Waste

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2002-08-22

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