Different Path, Same Destination: How Societal, State, and Market Actors Impact the Emergence of New Industries

An increasing number of studies examine the role of institutional actors in the process of developing new industries built around clean or sustainable technologies and practices. From the emergence of the wind energy industry to the development of the recycling sector, researchers have explored how various actors enacted change in established industries in order to create space for new markets to surface.  But, in focusing on the institutional work of the actors developing new fields, these studies have rarely considered the response of individuals and organizations within the incumbent market. Furthermore, these studies generally investigate the emergence of new industries within a single country, such as the development of nouveau haute cuisine in France or the market for grass-fed beef and dairy in the US. In order to develop a more complete picture of how institutional actors impact the emergence of sustainable industries, we bridge these gaps in the literature by examining how state institutional structures constrain the strategic choices made by both institutional entrepreneurs and industry incumbents. We theorize how the interactions of incumbents and institutional entrepreneurs may differ across states, leading to variation in the establishment of new industries. In essence, we posit that there may be multiple paths to the successful emergence of sustainable industries, and that path choice is partially determined by the state.  

With Jennifer Spencer (George Washington University)