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Institutional Pressures and Organizational Characteristics: Implications for Environmental Strategy


  • Magali A. Delmas

    () (University of California, Los Angeles)

  • Michael W. Toffel

    () (Harvard Business School, Technology and Operations Management Unit)


A broad literature has emerged over the past decades demonstrating that firms' environmental strategies and practices are influenced by stakeholders and institutional pressures. Such findings are consistent with institutional sociology, which emphasizes the importance of regulatory, normative and cognitive factors in shaping firms' decisions to adopt specific organizational practices, above and beyond their technical efficiency. Similarly, institutional theory emphasizes legitimation processes and the tendency for institutionalized organizational structures and procedures to be taken for granted, regardless of their efficiency implications. However, the institutional perspective does not address the fundamental issue of business strategy necessary to explain the persistence of substantially different strategies among firms that are subjected to comparable levels of institutional pressures. In this chapter, we present current research arguing that such firms adopt heterogeneous sets of environmental management practices despite facing common institutional pressures because organizational characteristics lead managers to interpret these pressures differently.

Suggested Citation

  • Magali A. Delmas & Michael W. Toffel, 2010. "Institutional Pressures and Organizational Characteristics: Implications for Environmental Strategy," Harvard Business School Working Papers 11-050, Harvard Business School.
  • Handle: RePEc:hbs:wpaper:11-050

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    Cited by:

    1. Paolo Perego & Ans Kolk, 2012. "Multinationals’ Accountability on Sustainability: The Evolution of Third-party Assurance of Sustainability Reports," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 110(2), pages 173-190, October.
    2. Chonnikarn Fern Jira & Michael W. Toffel, 2011. "Engaging Supply Chains in Climate Change," Harvard Business School Working Papers 12-026, Harvard Business School, revised Oct 2012.
    3. Abdul Majid & Muhammad Yasir & Muhammad Yasir & Asad Javed, 2020. "Nexus of institutional pressures, environmentally friendly business strategies, and environmental performance," Corporate Social Responsibility and Environmental Management, John Wiley & Sons, vol. 27(2), pages 706-716, March.
    4. Paola Garrone & Luca Grilli & Boris Mrkajic, 2018. "The role of institutional pressures in the introduction of energy‐efficiency innovations," Business Strategy and the Environment, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 27(8), pages 1245-1257, December.
    5. Abdullah Alsaadi & M. Shahid Ebrahim & Aziz Jaafar, 2017. "Corporate Social Responsibility, Shariah-Compliance, and Earnings Quality," Journal of Financial Services Research, Springer;Western Finance Association, vol. 51(2), pages 169-194, April.
    6. Christopher Marquis & Michael W. Toffel & Yanhua Zhou, 2011. "Scrutiny, Norms, and Selective Disclosure: A Global Study of Greenwashing," Harvard Business School Working Papers 11-115, Harvard Business School, revised Jul 2015.
    7. Anil R. Doshi & Glen W.S. Dowell & Michael W. Toffel, 2011. "How Firms Respond to Mandatory Information Disclosure," Harvard Business School Working Papers 12-001, Harvard Business School, revised Jun 2012.
    8. Dubey, Rameshwar & Gunasekaran, Angappa & Samar Ali, Sadia, 2015. "Exploring the relationship between leadership, operational practices, institutional pressures and environmental performance: A framework for green supply chain," International Journal of Production Economics, Elsevier, vol. 160(C), pages 120-132.
    9. James Cordeiro & Manish Tewari, 2015. "Firm Characteristics, Industry Context, and Investor Reactions to Environmental CSR: A Stakeholder Theory Approach," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 130(4), pages 833-849, September.
    10. Marta Pinzone & Emanuele Lettieri & Cristina Masella, 2015. "Proactive Environmental Strategies in Healthcare Organisations: Drivers and Barriers in Italy," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 131(1), pages 183-197, September.

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