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Management controls and pressure groups: the mediation of overflows

PurposeOrganisations produce effects that go beyond the economic framing within which they operate, referred to as overflows in this paper. When an organisation comes under pressure to address these overflows they must decide how to respond. Previous research has placed social and environmental reporting as an important tool organisations mobilise in their attempts to mediate these pressures and the groups that give rise to them. However, these reports are typically only released once a year while the pressures that organisations face can arise at any time and are ongoing and constant. The purpose of this paper is to explore situated organisational practices and examine if and how management controls are mobilised in relation to the actions of pressure groups.Design/methodology/approachThis paper takes a case study approach to understand how an organisation attempts to mediate the pressures from a number of overflows: carbon emissions, changing lifestyles, aspartame and obesity. To undertake this research a performative understanding of management control is utilised. This focusses the research on if and how management controls are mobilised to assist with attempts to mediate pressures.FindingsAnalysis of the data shows that many different management controls, beyond just reports, were mobilised during the attempts to mediate the pressure arising from the actions of groups affected by the overflows. The management controls were utilised to: identify pressures, demonstrate how the pressure had been addressed, alleviate the pressure or to dispute the legitimacy of the pressure.Originality/valueThis paper shows the potential for new connections to be made between the management control and social and environmental accounting literatures. It demonstrates that future research may gain much from examining the management controls mobilised within the situated practices that constitute an organisations response to the pressures it faces.

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