Strategic responses to institutional pressures for sustainability: the role of management control systems

Chaminda Wijethilake, Rahat Munir, Ranjith Appuhami

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose The purpose of this paper is to examine the role of management control systems (MCS) in strategically responding to institutional pressures for sustainability (IPS). Drawing on institutional theory (DiMaggio and Powell, 1983) and strategic responses to institutional pressures framework (Oliver, 1991), the study argues that organisations strategically respond to IPS using MCS.
Design/methodology/approach Data were collected by interviewing sustainability managers of a large-scale multinational apparel manufacturing organisation with its headquarters in Sri Lanka.
Findings The study finds that organisations actively respond to IPS using acquiescence, compromise, avoidance, defiance, and manipulation strategies. The results not only reveal that formal MCS play a critical role in complying with IPS, but also in more active responses, including compromise, avoidance, defiance, and manipulation. The findings highlight that organisations use MCS as a medium to respond strategically to IPS, and in turn, the use of MCS has important implications for organisational change and improvement.
Practical implications The study has implications for Western organisations, finding that suppliers committed to sustainability in Asia strategically respond to IPS as a means of strengthening outsourcing contracts, instead of blindly accepting. Findings indicate that organisational changes and success seem to be a function of strategically responding to IPS rather than operating an organisation by neglecting sustainability challenges. The organisational ability to use MCS in strategically responding to IPS has the potential for long-term value creation.
Originality/value This study provides novel insights into the MCS, strategy and sustainability literatures by exploring different uses of MCS tools in strategically responding to IPS. More specifically, it shows how the use of MCS tools varies in supporting strategic responses, and with respective IPS. In doing so, it enhances our understanding of the importance of the use of MCS in dynamics of institutional change and practical variances in strategically responding to IPS.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1677-1710
Number of pages34
JournalAccounting, Auditing and Accountability Journal
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Sustainability
  • Institutional pressures
  • Management control systems
  • Strategic responses


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