Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 89, Issue 3, pp 449-472

First online:

Leaders and Laggards: The Influence of Competing Logics on Corporate Environmental Action

  • Irene M. HerremansAffiliated withHaskayne School of Business, University of Calgary Email author 
  • , M. Sandy HerschovisAffiliated withI. A. Asper School of Business, University of Manitoba
  • , Stephanie BertelsAffiliated withSimon Fraser University

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We study the sources of resistance to change among firms in the Canadian petroleum industry in response to a shift in societal level logics related to corporate environmental performance. Despite challenges to its legitimacy as a result of poor environmental performance, the Canadian petroleum industry was divided as to how to respond, with some members ignoring the concerns and resisting change (i.e., laggards) while others took action to ensure continued legitimacy (i.e., leaders). We examine why organizations within the same institutional field responded differently, delaying the industry response. We found that one population of firms was aligned with increasing pressures from its stakeholders for improved environmental performance, and the other was influenced by local cultural, political, and economic ideals less demanding of environmental actions. Our results reveal that several factors both at the institutional field level and the organizational level affected how these two populations reacted to a changing societal logic. Implications for theory, practice, and future research are discussed.


environmental performance environmental reporting institutional logics legitimacy corporate responsibility