Configuring Management Control Systems: Theorising the Integration of Strategy and Sustainability
Cass Business School
Nottingham University Business School
Nottingham University Business School (NUBS)
Forthcoming in Management Accounting Research
Although organizations have embraced the sustainability rhetoric in their discourse and external reporting, little is known about the processes whereby management control systems contribute to a deeper integration of sustainability within organizational strategy. This paper addresses this gap and mobilizes a configuration approach to theorise the roles and uses of management control systems (MCSs) and sustainability control systems (SCSs) in the integration of sustainability within organizational strategy. Building on Simons’ levers of control framework, we distinguish two possible uses of a MCS and a SCS — a diagnostic use and an interactive use —, and we specify the modes of MCS and SCS integration. We rely on these two core dimensions to identify eight organizational configurations that reflect the various uses as well as their modes of integration of SCS and MCS. We characterize these ideal-type configurations, explain their impact on the triple bottom line, and describe which mechanisms allow organizations to move from one configuration to another. In so doing, we highlight various paths toward sustainability integration or marginalization within organizations. Finally, we explain how our framework can support future research on the role of MCS and SCS in the integration of sustainability within strategy.
Keywords: Management Control Systems, Levers of Control, Integration, Sustainability Accounting, Strategic Management Accounting
JEL Classification: M4Accepted Paper Series
Date posted: July 25, 2012
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