Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 89, Issue 3, pp 449–472 | Cite as

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

  • Irene M. HerremansEmail author
  • M. Sandy Herschovis
  • Stephanie Bertels


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 


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The authors would like to thank Nick Turner and Tom Lawrence for their helpful comments on an earlier draft of this manuscript. The authors gratefully acknowledge the financial support of Environment Canada and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. An earlier draft of this manuscript was presented at the 65th annual Academy of Management conference. All authors contributed equally to this manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Irene M. Herremans
    • 1
    Email author
  • M. Sandy Herschovis
    • 2
  • Stephanie Bertels
    • 3
  1. 1.Haskayne School of BusinessUniversity of CalgaryCalgaryCanada
  2. 2.I. A. Asper School of BusinessUniversity of ManitobaWinnipegCanada
  3. 3.Simon Fraser UniversityVancouverCanada

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