Legitimacy construction in the Forestry Sector in South America from the perspective of Local Communities

Research summary

The aim of my research is to understand what is it exactly that defines how corporate legitimacy is created. The research engages in the following research questions: What is the role of stakeholder dialogue in the creation of corporate legitimacy? How is legitimacy upheld in the public sphere through media representations? And how can companies and locals, learn to work side-by-side before costly and damaging conflicts emerge? Legitimacy is looked at from three different perspectives: first, the organizational legitimacy or "the generalized perception or assumption that the actions are desirable within a socially constructed system of norms, values, beliefs, and definitions" (Suchman 1995:574); second, the democratic legitimacy ("consent of the governed") in terms of stakeholders giving their consent to the corporations to be present in their communities; and third, legitimacy as the outcome of a place-bound social imaginary (Taylor, 2002) and the capacity of an organization to sustain and maintain the reproduction of life (Dussel, 2013) within that particular imaginary and place.


I am building a framework of how corporate legitimacy can be seen from a 'pluriversal' perspective (Mignolo, 2011) rather a universal understanding of the firm (as per Suchman's widely cited definition mentioned above). By adapting a decolonial methodology, my research sets out to bring forward the otherwise often hidden perspective of the marginalized and excluded (Ibarra-Colado, 2006). Within the decolonial concept lies an understanding that the world cannot be interpreted from an abstract universal standpoint but is rather composed of diverse critical epistemic/ethical/political projects towards a pluriversal (as opposed to a universal) world (Grosfoguel, 2007).

The material from my case studies indicate that how legitimacy is conceptualized within the communities is directly dependent on the dominant social imaginary of the community itself, influencing the community's capacity to defend its own value systems and challenge the universal drive for 'modernization' and 'development'. As a consequence, to gain legitimacy in the local sphere, there is not only a need of a shift in how corporations and local communities engage in dialogue (Scherer and Palazzo, 2006) but a broader epistemological shift in how different social imaginaries can co-exist and support each other in order to promote the "reproduction of life" (Dussel, 2013).

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Project information

Research info

Research title
Legitimacy construction in the Forestry Sector in South America from the perspective of Local Communities

Research timeline
1.8.2011 - 1.12.2016

buen vivir CSR decolonial deliberation development EIA forestry industry Legitimacy local subsistence media representation pluriverse social imaginaries stakeholder dialogue

Latin America

Chile, Finland, Uruguay

Hanken School of Economics
Supply Chain Management and Social Responsibility
Helsinki, Finland

Funding instrument

Project budget
0 - 200,000 euros

Head of research
Maria Ehrnström-Fuentes

Contact information
Maria Ehrnström-Fuentes

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