There is an increasing awareness in international business that institutional factors need to be better incorporated into the understanding of international investments decisions of multinational companies. This applies equally to outward foreign direct investment by emerging economy firms. The intense renewal of interest in these ‘emerging multinationals’ over the last half decade or so has stimulated an increasing volume of contributions offering alternative theoretical perspectives, macro-level surveys of aggregate trends and case studies of firms and their strategies and operations. Not much has been suggested in terms of integrating various theoretical frameworks however and developing a more holistic understanding of these new investment flows. In this Editorial we propose that outward FDI from emerging economies can be better understood by analyzing them within a broad institutional framework of strategic fit. This theoretical approach may provide important insights concerning both the original impetus to the contemporary acceleration of these flows and their specific features. By building on the early literature on fit in strategic management we outline an institutional framework which considers flows of outward investment from emerging economies as framed by institutional pressures at the firm level towards achieving fit between the environment, strategies, structures, resources and practices of the firm. For the multinational firm this fit must be attained along multiple dimensions, domestically, abroad and in the global environment. We then proceed to interpret recent evidence on ‘emerging multinationals’, including the contributions in this special issue, in the context of this framework. We conclude with proposing promising areas of future research.