The Communicative Construction of Legitimacy Spillovers: The Strategic Use of Legitimacy Associations between the UN Global Compact and its Corporate Signatories
Posted: 8 Dec 2010
Date Written: December 7, 2010
Drawing on an institutional perspective, we argue that the formation of the Global Compact’s legitimacy depends on the legitimacy of corporate signatories. The proclaimed interdependence of legitimacy objects implies that increasing numbers of best‐practice examples in the corporate sector are likely to raise the legitimacy of the Global Compact, constituting a positive legitimacy spillover for the initiative. By the same token, corporate misuse and disregard of the Compact’s principles and its aggravation by mass-mediated scandalization discredit the Global Compact as a vital instrument for private governance, entailing a negative spillover for the initiative. By content-analyzing public communications patterns of both Global Compact advocates and critics we identify an active and passive approach in the strategic use of the spillover phenomenon. The active approach aims at activating spillover construction and draws on affect-laden frames of responsibility and effectiveness vs. frames of genuineness and moral purity. The passive approach is centered on the attenuation or isolation of spillover effects. The paper discusses implications for the Global Compact organization and other comparable corporate citizenship initiatives, and elaborates prospects of transnational legitimation more generally.
Keywords: UN Global Compact, Legitimacy, Content Analysis, Framing
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