Weak links and the management of reputational interdependencies



This paper builds on a growing literature that takes into account the fact that firms in an industry may be interdependent with regard to their corporate reputations, thus sharing a “reputation commons.” We argue that the theory of public goods can help us to understand the interdependencies that link corporate reputations and to frame the contexts and requirements for collective action that they induce. In particular, we suggest that more and more frequently these interdependencies make industry reputation a “weak link” public good. We show that this raises new challenges for the strategic management of industry reputation by communities of firms. The discussion of these challenges is based on the case study of the collective action of the European chlorine companies towards restoring their reputation after being accused of not being safe, and on a model of the production of reputation by companies. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.