ESG Leaders or Laggards? A Configurational Analysis of ESG Performance

Krista Lewellyn, Maureen Muller-Kahle

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


We draw from resource dependence and institutional theories to explore how board characteristics associated with directors’ capacities to provide resources and legitimacy (i.e., board size, the number of non-executive, interlocking, and female directors) along with regulative, normative, and cultural-cognitive institutional conditions combine to shape firm environmental, social, and governance (ESG) performance. Using a process of configurational theorizing with fuzzy set qualitative comparative analysis and data from firms in 32 countries, we identify multiple equifinal configurations that are associated with high and low ESG performance. We find that high and low ESG performance have different drivers due to complementarities among the presence and absence of board characteristics. Our results also show that the effectiveness (or not) of the bundles of boards’ characteristics for ESG performance varies across institutional contexts. By leveraging these findings to construct a typology of board archetypes that lead to high and low ESG performance, we offer novel theoretical and empirical insights to scholars as well as implications for practice.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalBusiness and Society
StateAccepted/In press - 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Business, Management and Accounting (miscellaneous)
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)

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