Settlement Constellations and the Dynamics of Fields Formed around Social and Environmental Issues

Sean Buchanan, Charlene Zietsma, Dirk Matten

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Firms are increasingly responding to social and environmental issues in highly complex and heterogeneous organizational fields that transcend national boundaries. Yet, we still have a limited understanding of how these fields are structured and the implications of structural variation on how issues are addressed over time. We advance theory in this area by arguing that issue fields are characterized by varying settlement constellations that structure these fields. We develop a typology of three settlement constellations—unified, fragmented, and bifurcated—and describe their impact on field structure and the challenges they raise for addressing field-defining issues. We then theorize the evolution of fields with different settlement constellations and explain how and why constellations are sustained over time as well as when they may change. Our paper helps advance theory on organizational fields, private regulation, and firm responses to social and environmental issues. More broadly, our paper highlights the unique position of organizational and institutional scholars to examine complex social and environmental issues, or “grand challenges.”

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)700-721
Number of pages22
JournalOrganization Science
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Strategy and Management
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management
  • Management of Technology and Innovation


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