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Towards a More Comprehensive Framework for Sustainability Control Systems Research

Accounting for the Environment: More Talk and Little Progress

ISBN: 978-1-78190-303-2

Publication date: 16 October 2014


Although companies are increasingly embracing the sustainability discourse in their external reporting and disclosures, little is known about how management control systems support sustainability within organizations. This is unfortunate, given the important role that properly designed Sustainability Control Systems (SCS) may play in helping firms to better face their social and environmental responsibilities. Starting from these premises, the aim of this essay is twofold. On the one hand, we present a review of the emerging stream of research on sustainability and management control mechanisms, in order to identify and discuss the link between the two. On the other hand, we try to illustrate the main unaddressed issues in this literature as a premise to exploring one possible way to advance research in this area. Specifically, we make a call for a more holistic approach to the study of SCS, which considers also their organizational and cultural dimensions in addition to their technical properties. A framework for informing future work on the topic is proposed, based on the concept of ‘control package’ (Malmi & Brown, 2008; Sandelin, 2008) complemented with notions from the complementarity-based approach developed in organizational economics (Grandori & Furnari, 2008; Milgrom & Roberts, 1995). By enhancing our understanding on how SCS operate as a package, the application of our framework should allow researchers to develop better theory of how to design a range of controls to support organizational sustainability objectives, control sustainability activities, and drive sustainability performance.



Ditillo, A. and Lisi, I.E. (2014), "Towards a More Comprehensive Framework for Sustainability Control Systems Research", Accounting for the Environment: More Talk and Little Progress (Advances in Environmental Accounting & Management, Vol. 5), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 23-47.



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