The Use of Sustainability Information

Empirical Evidence from Multinational Corporations

by Daniel Gayk (Author)
©2021 Thesis XXIV, 254 Pages


Sustainability management is a prime topic for multinational corporations. Achieving ambitious sustainability goals, however, is affected by how employees use sustainability information within their decision-making. Little is yet known about the use of sustainability information at multinational corporations. This study therefore empirically addresses this gap and elaborates the main influencing factors of sustainability information use. The findings have important implications for researchers and practitioners such as top executives, sustainability managers and management accountants at multinational corporations.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the Author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Preface
  • Acknowledgement
  • Overview of contents
  • Table of contents
  • Index of figures
  • Index of tables
  • Index of abbreviations
  • Index of symbols
  • 1: Introduction
  • 1.1: Motivation and research questions
  • 1.2: Scientific positioning
  • 1.3: Study outline
  • 2: Conceptual foundations
  • 2.1: Sustainability information
  • 2.1.1: Sustainability concepts
  • 2.1.2: Types of sustainability information
  • 2.2: Multinational corporations
  • 2.3: Sustainability management at multinational corporations
  • 2.3.1: Institutionalization and strategy
  • 2.3.2: Collection of sustainability information
  • 2.3.3: Use of sustainability information
  • 3: State of research
  • 3.1: Sustainability management
  • 3.2: Use types
  • 3.3: Use of sustainability information
  • 3.4: Research gap
  • 4: Theories and theoretical framework
  • 4.1: Theories at the corporate level
  • 4.1.1: Behavioral decision theory
  • 4.1.2: Agency theory
  • 4.2: Theories at the individual level
  • 4.2.1: Theory of planned behavior
  • 4.2.2: Promotor model
  • 4.3: Theoretical framework
  • 5: Research design
  • 5.1: Research approach
  • 5.1.1: Introduction
  • 5.1.2: Principles of qualitative research
  • 5.2: Research methodology
  • 5.2.1: Case study methodology
  • 5.2.2: Case study design
  • 5.3: Research process
  • 5.3.1: Case selection
  • 5.3.2: Data collection
  • Method selection
  • Data collection by interviews
  • Interview data
  • 5.3.3: Data analysis
  • 5.3.4: Review of the research process
  • 6: Empirical results
  • 6.1: Within-case analyses
  • 6.1.1: ChemCo case
  • Case profile and sustainability management
  • Use of sustainability information
  • Innovation
  • Procurement
  • Operations
  • Sales
  • Human resources
  • Management control
  • Summary
  • 6.1.2: HealthCareCo case
  • Case profile and sustainability management
  • Use of sustainability information
  • Innovation
  • Procurement
  • Operations
  • Sales
  • Human resources
  • Management control
  • Summary
  • 6.1.3: HomeTechCo case
  • Case profile and sustainability management
  • Use of sustainability information
  • Innovation
  • Procurement
  • Operations
  • Sales
  • Human resources
  • Management control
  • Summary
  • 6.1.4: LogCo case
  • Case profile and sustainability management
  • Use of sustainability information
  • Innovation
  • Procurement
  • Operations
  • Sales
  • Human resources
  • Management control
  • Summary
  • 6.2: Cross-case analyses
  • 6.2.1: Use of sustainability information at multinational corporations
  • Innovation
  • Procurement
  • Operations
  • Sales
  • Human resources
  • Management control
  • Discussion
  • 6.2.2: Typology of the use of sustainability information
  • Instrumental use
  • Conceptual use
  • Focusing use
  • Diagnostic use
  • Positioning use
  • Ceremonial use
  • Bounding use
  • Discussion
  • 6.2.3: Influencing factors of the use of sustainability information
  • Influencing factors at the corporate level
  • Business model
  • Institutionalization of sustainability management
  • Collaboration between headquarters and subsidiaries
  • Influencing factors at the individual level
  • Personal factors
  • Promotors
  • Discussion
  • 7: Conclusion
  • 7.1: Main results and implications
  • 7.2: Limitations and future research
  • Appendices
  • List of references
  • Series Index

←xiv | xv→

Index of figures

Figure 1-1: Study outline

Figure 2-1: Link of leading and lagging indicators to performance

Figure 2-2: Value chain conceptualization

Figure 2-3: Challenges of collecting and using sustainability information at MNCs

Figure 3-1: Relevant literature streams

Figure 4-1: Decision-making in organizations

Figure 4-2: Main agency relationships at MNCs

Figure 4-3: Theory of planned behavior

Figure 4-4: Activities of promotors within innovation processes

Figure 4-5: Promotor model in the sustainability context

Figure 4-6: Shared assumptions of the theoretical framework

Figure 5-1: Types of case study designs

Figure 5-2: Main case selection criteria

Figure 5-3: Interviewing process

Figure 5-4: Interviewee identification process

Figure 5-5: Development of interview guidelines

Figure 5-6: Preparation of interview transcripts

Figure 5-7: Number and nationalities of interviewees

Figure 5-8: Organizational settings of interviewees per case

Figure 5-9: Thematic coding method

Figure 5-10: Data collection and data analysis structure

Figure 6-1: Institutionalization of sustainability management at ChemCo

Figure 6-2: Sustainable procurement platform at ChemCo

Figure 6-3: Hygiene and differentiating factors within sales activities at ChemCo

Figure 6-4: Institutionalization of sustainability management at HealthCareCo

Figure 6-5: Relevant sustainability topics for HealthCareCo’s customers

Figure 6-6: Institutionalization of sustainability management at HomeTechCo

Figure 6-7: Relevant information within R&D decision-making at HomeTechCo

Figure 6-8: Supplier selection criteria at HomeTechCo

Figure 6-9: Institutionalization of sustainability management at LogCo

Figure 6-10: Use of sustainability information within operations at LogCo

←xv | xvi→

Figure 6-11: Evaluation of prior findings in the literature

Figure 6-12: Development of a new type of information use

Figure 6-13: Overview of influencing factors of the use of sustainability information at MNCs

←xviii | xix→

Index of abbreviations

A/S Aktieselskab (stock corporation)

B2B Business-to-business

B2C Business-to-consumer

BA Bachelor

BEL Belgium

BMU Bundesministerium für Umwelt, Naturschutz und nukleare Sicherheit (Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety)

BRIC Brazil, Russia, India and China

CAC 40 Cotation Assistée en Continu 40 (French stock market index)

CAQDAS Computer-assisted qualitative data analysis software

CEP Compliance and Ethics Professional

CFO Chief financial officer

CHE Switzerland

CHN China

CO2 Carbon dioxide COVID-19 Coronavirus disease 2019

CSR Corporate social responsibility

CZE Czech Republic

DAX Deutscher Aktienindex (German stock index)

DG Daniel Gayk

DHL Dalsey, Hillblom and Lynn

DIN Deutsches Institut für Normung (German Institute for Standardization)

DMNC(s) Diversified multinational corporation(s)

DNA Desoxyribonukleinsäure (deoxribonucleic acid)

Dr. Doctor

eco Ecologic

ed(s). Editor(s)

EEX European Energy Exchange

e.g. Exempli gratia (for example)

EHS Environment, health and safety

EMA Environmental management accounting

ERP Enterprise resource planning

et al. Et alia (and others)

etc. Et cetera (and so forth)

←xix | xx→

EU European Union

EUOA Embedded unit of analysis

EUR Euro

f. Following

FAQ Frequently asked questions FY Fiscal year

GaBi Ganzheitliche Bilanzierung (Holistic accounting) GRI Global Reporting Initiative

HKG Hong Kong

HR Human resources

HRM Human resource management

https Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure

i.e. Id est (that is)

IPO Initial public offering

ISO International Organization for Standardization

IT Information technology

ITA Italy

IUR Lehrstuhl für Internationale Unternehmensrechnung (Chair of International Accounting)

JPN Japan

KPI(s) Key performance indicator(s)

LED Licht emittierende Diode (light emitting diode)

M&A Mergers and acquisitions

MCS(s) Management control system(s)

MNC(s) Multinational corporation(s)

MSc Master of Science

n/a Not applicable

No. Number

p. Page

P1 Person 1

P2 Person 2

←xx | xxi→

PMS(s) Performance measurement system(s)

POL Poland

pp. Pages

Prof. Professor

PuK Planung und Kontrolle (planning and control)

QDA Qualitative data analysis

R&D Research and development RQ(s) Research question(s)

SA Social accountability SAP BW Database software ‘Systems Applications and Products Business Information Warehouse’

SDG Sustainable development goal

SO2 Sulfur dioxide

SSRN Social Science Research Network

SWE Sweden

TUR Turkey

UAE United Arab Emirates

UK United Kingdom

URL Uniform Resource Locator

U.S. United States

USA United States of America

Vol. Volume vs. Versus

www World Wide Web

←xxii | xxiii→

Index of symbols

& And


Ø Average

Not applicable

# Number

(✔) Partially applicable

% Percent

+ Plus

←0 | 1→


1.1 Motivation and research questions

Sustainability and the associated role of multinational corporations (MNCs) is one of the prime topics in this millenium, especially within Europe (European Commission (2020)). Accordingly, numerous MNCs have communicated their intent to follow ambitious environmental, social and economic sustainability goals. For instance, the global furniture manufacturer IKEA has committed itself to reduce the carbon footprint of its warehouse operations by 80 percent and of its value chain by 15 percent from the year 2016 to 2030 (IKEA (2020)). Besides, the sportswear producer NIKE has announced to safeguard pay equity between men and women (NIKE (2020)). Furthermore, the consumer goods corporation Henkel aims at strengthening long-lasting relationships along the supply chain by collaborating with its suppliers on establishing sustainable business practices (Henkel (2020)).

Research indicates that MNCs need to ensure that their employees use sustainability information for decision-making purposes (e.g. assessing different decision-making options such as alternative input materials, guiding the ultimate decision) when aiming at improving corporate sustainability performance (Palme/Tillman (2008), p. 1355; Lisi (2015), p. 40). In turn, enhancing the sustainability performance and thereby attaining communicated sustainability goals is increasingly relevant to MNCs for strengthening their reputation and legitimacy (Blacconiere/Patten (1994), p. 374; Roberts/Dowling (2002), pp. 1077f.; Henri/Journeault (2010), p. 73; Cho et al. (2012), pp. 14f.).


XXIV, 254
ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2021 (September)
Sustainability management International companies Decision-making Sustainability performance Carbon emissions Qualitative research Management accounting
Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Warszawa, Wien, 2021. XXIV, 254 pp., 34 fig. b/w, 22 tables.

Biographical notes

Daniel Gayk (Author)

Daniel Gayk studied Business Administration at the University of Münster (Germany), NHH Bergen (Norway) and Hanken School of Economics (Finland). He worked as a research assistant for the Chair of International Accounting at the University of Münster.


Title: The Use of Sustainability Information