The mixed results of previous empirical investigations on the relevance of firms’ reporting on sustainable development could be due to the absence of a theoretical paradigm able to capture the differences across countries. We apply the varieties of capitalism approach on a sample of European listed banks from 2005 to 2011, to evaluate whether the different institutional contexts affect the value relevance of sustainability reporting in European stock markets. The results show that sustainability reporting is more relevant in coordinated market economies compared with liberal market economies and mixed market economies. The main findings are that systemic and institutional factors influence the impact of sustainability reporting on the firm's market value, and the varieties of capitalism approach provides an important theoretical framework to grasp and highlight differences across European countries on the value relevance of firms’ reporting on sustainable development. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd and ERP Environment.