Strategic responses to institutional forces pressuring sustainability practice adoption: Case-based evidence from inland port operations

Markus Vejvar, Kee Hung Lai, Chris K.Y. Lo, Elmar W.M. Fürst

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

37 Citations (Scopus)


This article investigates strategic responses of inland ports to institutional forces pressuring their adoption of sustainability practices. We postulate that even though inland port operators strive for economic viability, there are growing pressures from various stakeholders for continuous enhancement of their environmental and social sustainability practices. We apply institutional theory to classify the effects of these forces based on five institutional antecedents – cause, constituents, content, control, and context – and further expand our theoretical framework with resource dependence tenets to discuss the spectrum of strategic responses available to inland ports to deal with institutional forces. We examine our theoretical arguments with empirical evidence collected from four inland ports using a case study-based approach. We conclude that while inland ports have a strong disposition towards social sustainability, economic considerations are still most emphasized, and environmental issues are mostly regarded in compliance with the legally mandated minimum. The most important sources of institutional pressure are identified as cause, constituents, and control. In a further step, we present evidence of the inland ports’ potential strategic responses. The study also provides insights for managers and policy makers on strategic options as appropriate organizational responses to proliferating institutional pressures for sustainability practices adoption.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)274-288
Number of pages15
JournalTransportation Research Part D: Transport and Environment
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2018


  • Case study
  • Inland port operations
  • Institutional theory
  • Port operations
  • Resource dependence theory
  • Sustainability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Transportation
  • General Environmental Science


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