The role of management accounting and control systems (MACS) in achieving corporate social objectives

Submissions open 1st March 2024


Management accounting and control systems (MACS) are designed to ensure that an organisation’s goals are met (Harris, 2018). Over the last twenty years, MACS have developed beyond traditional budgetary control systems to adopt more balanced scorecard approaches, where customer, internal business processes, learning and growth dimensions have been introduced (Harris et al., 2018). In some cases, sustainability has been incorporated into MACS (Beusch et al., 2022; Frostenson and Johnstone, 2023; Johnstone et al., 2023; Lueg and Radlach, 2016).

Organisations have been urged to play their part in member states delivering the United Nations sustainable development goals (SDGs published in 2014) by 2030, but that leaves little time for MACs to catch up. The areas of the quality of the work environment (SDG8), health and wellbeing of employees and customers (SDG3) and gender and diversity (SDGs 5 & 10) may be neglected in challenging economic situations, but practice-based research in these areas may help to encourage better understanding of how organisations can tackle these issues. The most obvious role for MACs is in setting and monitoring key performance indicators (KPIs). However, MACS research may still focus too much on the diagnostic controls and not enough on the interactive controls (Simons, 1995). This requires a new conceptualisation of controls (Johnstone, 2019).

Further, SDG 16 contains targets for effective, accountable and transparent institutions (16.6), alongside the need for responsive, inclusive, participatory and representative decision-making for institutions at all levels (16.7). To achieve these targets, we need to know more about what corporations, governments and other organisations are actually doing about sustainability. Sustainability reporting poses challenges both internally and externally that MACS can address. More contextual research on how management accounting and control systems (MACS) have helped or could be adapted to support organisations in performing better in their social objectives is needed.

The current context of a high level of industrial unrest in transport, delivery services, the NHS, social care and other public services, schools, and universities makes it even more compelling for a shift in focus in MACS research. The wellbeing, working conditions, pay and terms of employment for people struggling to cope with the rising costs of living are of heightened concern (e.g., Gunarathne et al, 2016; Tappura et al., 2015). Research papers addressing such issues are especially welcome.

The latest transformation in the field of manufacturing, commonly referred to as "Industry 4.0," has brought about a profound shift in the manufacturing landscape. This revolution involves the integration of the physical world with its virtual counterpart, facilitating communication among machines, fostering collaboration along the value creation chain, and elevating the level of intelligence in the manufacturing process. This will have a substantial impact on business models, the work environment and the realm of management accounting. We invite research papers that explore innovative methods to enhance analysis and decision-making processes within this new paradigm (Dai and Vasarhelyi, 2023).

List of topic areas

  • Measuring the impact of and on human resources of issues such as absenteeism (especially due to mental health issues), high vacancy levels, staff turnover etc. in organisations.
  • How/can MACS help to identify and deal with issues of modern slavery?
  • Are the levers of control (LOC) working or should the theory/model be updated to accommodate social sustainability?
  • Do balanced scorecards and other performance measurement systems need updating to deal more effectively with human/social issues?
  • The importance of organisational culture in MACS
  • Taxation policy and governmental control towards achieving SDGs
  • Highlighting the social pillar in environmental, social and governance (ESG) performance
  • Evaluating the effect of Industry 4.0 on MACS.

Guest Editors

Professor Elaine Harris
University of Roehampton

Associate Professor Jari Huikku
Aalto University

Professor Stewart Smyth
Cork University Business School

Professor Cecilia Olukemi Yekini
Aston University

Submissions Information

Submissions are made using ScholarOne Manuscripts. Author guidelines must be strictly followed. 

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Authors should select (from the drop-down menu) the special issue title at the appropriate step in the submission process, i.e. in response to “Please select the issue you are submitting to”.  

Submitted articles must not have been previously published, nor should they be under consideration for publication anywhere else, while under review for this journal.

Key Dates

Submissions open 1st March 2024
Closing date 30th April 2024
Expected publication date Early 2025


Beusch, P., Frisk, J.E., Rosen, M. and Dilla, W. (2022) Management control for sustainability: Towards integrated systems. Management Accounting Research, 54.

Dai, J. and Vasarhelyi, M.A. (2023) Management Accounting 4.0: The Future of Management Accounting. Journal of Emerging Technologies in Accounting (2023) 20 (1): 1–13.

Frostenson, M and Johnstone, L. (2023) Moving beyond the external face of accountability: constructing accountability for sustainability from within, Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal, 14(7), 124-151. 

Gunarathne, N., Samudrage, D., Wijesinghe, D.N. (2016) Fostering social sustainability management through safety controls and accounting; A stakeholder approach in the mining sector. Accounting Research Journal, 29(2), 179-197. 

Harris, E. P., Northcott, D., Elmassri, M. M., Huikku, J. and Souza, R. (2018) Multi-Dimensional Performance Frameworks and Strategic Investment Decisions. London: ICAEW.

Harris, E. P. (ed.) (2018) The Routledge Companion to Performance Management and Control, Abingdon: Routledge.

Johnstone, L. (2019) Theorising and conceptualising the sustainability control system for effective sustainability management, Journal of Management Control, 30(1), 25-64. 2019. 

Johnstone, L., Yates, D., and Nylander, S. (2023) Taking shape within the structural and the personal: sustainability accountability within a Swedish public sector organisation, Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal, 14(7), 287-312. 

Lueg, R. and Radlach, R. (2016) Managing sustainable development with management control systems: A literature review. European Management Journal, 34, 158-171. 

Simons, R. (1995) Levers of Control: How managers use innovative control systems to drive strategic renewal, Harvard Business School Press, Boston, MA. 

Tappura, S., Sievänen, M., Heikkilä, J., Jussila, A., Nenonen, N. (2015) A management accounting perspective on safety. Safety Science, 71(1), 151-159. 

World Bank (2022) Inequality and Shared Prosperity. Available at: Accessed on 8 November, 2023