Different reasons for different responses: A review of incumbents’ adaptation in carbon-intensive industries

Franziska Sump, Sangyoon Yi*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

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Organizations often respond in different ways to common external shocks. To advance theories on organizational adaptation and performance heterogeneity, it is essential to understand different reasons for different organizational responses. We examine how incumbents in carbon-intensive industries adapt to heightened environmental pressure to reduce carbon emissions. Based on a review of the literature, we propose three dimensions along which diverse organizational responses can be efficiently mapped out: goal, timing, and scope. Building on our proposed dimensions, we develop a typology of five different organizational responses. With this, we show that organizational responses are more diverse than a one-dimensional scale could show but that the heterogeneity is somehow limited as the positions on the dimensions are not independent but correlated. To understand this observed limited heterogeneity, we proceed by identifying reasons behind different organizational responses. Furthermore, we discuss the theoretical implications of our findings for research on organizational adaptation and sustainability.
Original languageEnglish
JournalOrganization & Environment
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)323-346
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2021


  • organizational adaptation
  • organizational heterogeneity
  • climate change
  • carbon-intensive industry
  • sustainability


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