A comprehensive literature review on, and the construction of a framework for, environmental legitimacy, accountability and proactivity

Bakhtiar Alrazi, Charl De Villiers, Chris J. Van Staden

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

51 Citations (Scopus)


This paper identifies three conceptually distinct, but interrelated concepts regarding corporate environmental behaviour from the literature - environmental legitimacy, environmental accountability, and environmental proactivity - and shows how they can be integrated into a single framework. This is done in a context where prior studies in the literature do not relate these concepts to each other or place the concepts within a meaningful context, nor integrate them into a single framework. The framework demonstrates an organisational journey towards achieving legitimacy in environmental endeavours. Environmental legitimacy is conditional upon the public evaluation of corporate environmental performance and environmental reporting (environmental accountability), which in turn, requires organisations to invest in environmental management and accounting systems and stakeholder engagement (environmental proactivity). The paper identifies company, stakeholder and other characteristics that influence the constructs in the framework and also propose a research agenda based on this framework. Environmental performance constitutes the central concept in the framework, acknowledging that improved environmental performance promotes the ultimate goal of sustainability. The framework suggests that the judicious management of environmental performance and reporting, the two components of environmental accountability, results in environmental legitimacy. Furthermore, environmental accountability can be enhanced by environmental proactivity, a concept comprising environmental management and environmental accounting, as well as stakeholder engagement. This synthesis of the factors that influence and contribute to environmental performance is the framework's main contribution.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)44-57
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Cleaner Production
Publication statusPublished - 01 Sep 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Strategy and Management
  • Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering

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