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Legitimation Strategies Used in Response to Environmental Disaster: A French Case Study of Total SA's Erika and AZF Incidents

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  • Charles Cho
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    This paper presents a case study examining the environmental disclosure decisions and practices of Total SA (hereafter, Total), one of the largest integrated oil and gas companies in the world. Because the company has a substantial international presence and operates in environmentally sensitive industries, management is constantly exposed to ethical and social issues. The company faced two major environment-related disasters: (1) the sinking of the Erika tanker, leading to a major oil spill along the Atlantic coast of Bretagne in 1999; and (2) the 2001 deadly explosion of the AZF chemical plant in the suburb of Toulouse, France. In this case study I aim at investigating the strategies employed by Total to defend and downplay its environmental performance and activities related to these incidents. The case is framed within legitimacy theory, originating from the notion of a 'social contract' between organizations and society. Findings generally indicate that Total used communication strategies to legitimate their actions and support the argument that social and environmental disclosures remain a powerful legitimacy device rather than an effort towards greater accountability.

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    Article provided by Taylor & Francis Journals in its journal European Accounting Review.

    Volume (Year): 18 (2009)
    Issue (Month): 1 ()
    Pages: 33-62

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    Handle: RePEc:taf:euract:v:18:y:2009:i:1:p:33-62
    DOI: 10.1080/09638180802579616
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