The legitimacy of SDG-related business goals: A study on stakeholders’ perceptions of economic, environmental, and social SDG-related business goals’ legitimacy, and the influence of external CSR reporting

Thumbnail Image
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Following the creation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by the United Nations, companies are nowadays called to translate these SDGs into manageable business goals to do business more responsibly. This study aims to gain insights into stakeholders’ legitimacy perceptions of SDG-related business goals compared to financial business goals. Therefore, the research question asks how different stakeholders (customers and employees) perceive the legitimacy of economic, environmental, and social SDG-related business goals compared to financial business goals. Moreover, it is asked how being exposed to a CSR report, communicating the company’s SDG-related business goals, influences these legitimacy perceptions. To answer these research questions, a case study is carried out on Coty, a multinational cosmetics conglomerate. More specifically, a mixed-methods approach is used consisting of ten semi-structured interviews with five employees and five customers followed by an online survey with these same employees and customers. Through inductive analyses, several characteristics of stakeholders’ legitimacy perceptions of SDG-related versus financial business goals are found. Namely, while stakeholders perceive the SDG-related business goals as legitimate, they still find the company focused on financials. Both employees and customers would perceive SDG-related business goals as more legitimate through tailored communication, high goal specificity, a goal progress monitoring system, and the company’s creation of a joint effort. Moreover, it can be concluded that legitimacy is not particularly formed by a CSR report, but rather by concrete actions from the company, directed at employees and customers. However, these findings should be interpreted with caution due to the small sample of this study. Still, the results have enabled a link between the literature on goal setting, goal legitimacy, and Corporate Social Responsibility, expanding findings of previous studies of these literature streams to the SDGs. In such a way, these findings have created a base for further research on the implementation of SDGs in business, and the importance of stakeholders’ perceptions in strategic management.
Faculteit der Managementwetenschappen