Why Architecture Does Not Matter: On the Fallacy of Sustainability Balanced Scorecards

Journal of Business Ethics 150 (4):919-935 (2018)
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Abstract

In a recent review article published in this journal, Hansen and Schaltegger discuss the architecture of sustainability balanced scorecards. They link the architecture of SBSCs to the maturity of the value system of a firm as well as to the proactiveness of a firm’s sustainability strategy. We contend that this argument is flawed and that the architecture of SBSC does not matter since—irrespective of their architecture—SBSCs are ill-suited to achieve substantive corporate contributions to sustainability. First, we assess the SBSC against three fundamental conditions for an effective management of corporate sustainability—the generation of positive outcomes at the societal level, the consideration of complexities and tensions, and the integration of heterogeneous and competing logics—to show that the SBSC is diametrically opposed to the complex and multi-facetted nature of corporate sustainability and ill-suited to achieve transformational change of for-profit organisations towards sustainability. Second, we address the question whether architecture of the SBSC matters and find that it is a fallacy to believe that the architecture of SBSCs can address this fundamental misfit. Rather, our argument reveals that irrespective of its architecture the SBSC is not a suitable tool for achieving strategic change for sustainability beyond incrementalism because it is deeply rooted in the idea of aligning sustainability with established core business routines. We propose that the emerging integrative view on corporate sustainability offers a more promising route for scholars and practitioners who are truly concerned with a deep transformation of private firms towards more sustainability.

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