Triple-Bottom-Line Goals in a Management Control System: Experimental Effects on Commitment and Trust

15 Pages Posted: 22 Aug 2012

See all articles by Roger Stace

Roger Stace

University of Colorado Denver

Date Written: August 20, 2012


Despite empirical evidence that corporate social - and environmental - performance is positively related to financial performance, extensive skepticism of this link exists. One source of skepticism is a lack of clarity about the mechanisms by which seeking social performance leads to better financial performance. This study tests a specific causal mechanism and some of its likely boundary conditions, through which setting corporate social and even environmental goals may lead to better financial outcomes for a firm.

Organizational leaders attracted to the triple-bottom-line ideal of simultaneously improving financial, and social, and environmental performance may reasonably be reluctant to impose additional goals and performance measures on already busy managers. A management control system (MCS) that supplements budget-based goals with holistic, sustainable business goals may either inspire managers to unite behind the organization’s vision, or dilute the attention and energy of managers away from being effective. Improving triple-bottom-line performance will also be an unfamiliar task, frequently difficult to measure, and discomfiting for individuals who value the status quo. Learning goals are suggested as a way to address these concerns, and the results of an experiment suggest that using learning goals to broaden a MCS to include triple-bottom-line goals is a potentially beneficial approach. In particular, the use of learning goals to implement a triple-bottom-line was associated with increased trust, goal commitment, and affective organizational commitment, even amongst participants who held values thought to be incompatible with sustainability initiatives. Limitations of the proposed intervention, along with the potential organizational benefits of increased trust and commitment are then discussed.

Keywords: triple-bottom-line, experiment, values, learning goals, commitment, trust

JEL Classification: M14, M41

Suggested Citation

Stace, Roger, Triple-Bottom-Line Goals in a Management Control System: Experimental Effects on Commitment and Trust (August 20, 2012). AAA 2013 Management Accounting Section (MAS) Meeting Paper. Available at SSRN: or

Roger Stace (Contact Author)

University of Colorado Denver ( email )

Box 173364
1250 14th Street
Denver, CO 80217
United States

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