Chasing the Greater Good : A Qualitative study in how Sustainability is steered and implemented through Control Systems
Abstract: Today's society is a vulnerable society. Climate change and social injustices are genuine threats to how the lives of future generations are going to be, and humans are the cause of these problems. Sustainable development needs to be achieved if we want future generations to have a good and dignified existence. Companies have a significant impact on society, and therefore play an essential role in how successful we are in achieving sustainable development. Past research has found that control systems, especially reward systems, can be important to implement sustainability in companies. Therefore, the purpose of this study is to get a deeper understanding of how organizations implement and steer sustainability by including it in their control systems, and particularly, how reward systems are used in the context of sustainability. By studying past research and theories regarding sustainable development, management control, performance measurements and reward systems, we have gained knowledge and an understanding of how these areas are connected. To achieve the purpose of this study, a qualitative study was done in which we conducted eleven semi-structured interviews with managers and sustainability experts from six different companies. Based on the empirical findings of the study, we were able to make several conclusions. First, sustainability is integrated into already existing control systems, which often interact and are related to each other, and we found that there is a balance between social and environmental dimensions. Companies choose to focus on sustainability issues were they have the most negative impact, and they include sustainability mostly in their cybernetic and administrative controls, for instance through performance measurements (KPIs) and policy documents. Also, several companies incorporate sustainability into their reward systems, such as rewards for safety parameters and reducing CO² emissions. What kind of rewards that are given for sustainability performance differ, some companies give monetary rewards while other give non-monetary. Non-monetary rewards are in the findings presented as most valuable for sustainability. We can also conclude that there are challenges with rewarding sustainability, but many respondents have overcome them and use reward systems as a way of implementing sustainability. Those who do not reward sustainability today can imagine doing so in the near future.
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