The Accounting Review, Vol. 91, No. 5, pp. 1467-1492, 2016
47 Pages Posted: 21 Aug 2012 Last revised: 1 Feb 2017
Date Written: September 20, 2016
Setting targets and providing monetary incentives are two widely used motivating tools to achieve desirable organizational outcomes. We focus on reduction of carbon emissions as a setting in which to examine how target difficulty and monetary incentives provided to managers affect the degree of target completion. We use a novel dataset compiled by the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) that yields a sample of 1,127 firms from around the world. We find that firms setting more difficult targets or providing monetary incentives are able to complete a higher percentage of the target. The effect of target difficulty on target completion is nonlinear: above a certain level, stretching the target decreases the percentage of target completion. Moreover, we find that bundling difficult targets together with monetary incentives negatively affects the degree of target completion, suggesting that these two motivating tools act as substitutes in our setting. Finally, we provide evidence that both target difficulty and monetary incentives motivate managers to a) undertake more carbon reducing projects that generate more carbon savings, and b) invest more money in such projects, without increasing the average payback period of the project portfolio.
Keywords: target setting, incentives, performance, environment, carbon emissions, climate change
JEL Classification: M4, M5, M1
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation
Ioannou, Ioannis and Li, Shelley Xin and Serafeim, George, The Effect of Target Difficulty on Target Completion: The Case of Reducing Carbon Emissions (September 20, 2016). The Accounting Review, Vol. 91, No. 5, pp. 1467-1492, 2016. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2133004 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2133004