Demystifying the link between institutional theory and stakeholder theory in sustainability reporting

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David M. Herold


In response to the global challenge of climate change, companies increasingly disclose sustainability-related information in form of sustainability reports. These reports, however, vary significantly due to multiple institutional and stakeholder pressures. From an academic perspective, institutional theory links these different outcomes to the influences of competing institutional logics on the field-level, representing institutional complexity on the field-level which is characterised by multiple demands from different stakeholders. Although current literature acknowledges that stakeholder may affect institutional logics, it is limited to categorise stakeholder influences on the firm-level, lacking conceptual clarity. Based on institutional and stakeholder constructs, this paper demonstrates that institutional and stakeholder theory provide, on different levels, a theoretical foundation to examine the influences on sustainability reporting. Various constructs of stakeholder theory and institutional fields as well as their limitations and further classification concepts are identified and discussed. This paper thereby advances the understanding between field-level pressures and firm-level agency and demonstrate that both theories can complement each other when examining the influences on sustainability reporting.

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HEROLD, David M.. Demystifying the link between institutional theory and stakeholder theory in sustainability reporting. Economics, Management and Sustainability, [S.l.], v. 3, n. 2, p. 6-19, nov. 2018. ISSN 2520-6303. Available at: <>. Date accessed: 19 dec. 2018. doi:


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