Third-party certifications as an organizational performance liability

Vinit M Desai
Journal of Management,Vol. 44, Issue 8, Pages: 3096-3123.
Third-party accreditations and certifications can provide legitimacy or signal trustworthiness about an organization and its products or services, and with very little exception, the vast majority of research on these labels focuses on their benefits. Yet the value of becoming accredited may change dramatically over time. Little research, if any, has examined the processes through which this occurs. Here, I develop theory about three mechanisms that could each tarnish the value of accreditation and reduce its performance impact. First, “quality patching” occurs when organizations are penalized if they seek accreditation shortly after problems occur, as observers believe such pursuits reflect superficial impression-management efforts. Second, “legitimacy dilution” occurs when the value of third-party accreditations becomes diluted as third parties certify more and more businesses. Finally, “stigma transfer” occurs when a