Green Controlling – Tasks and Challenges

Under the heading of "green controlling", sustainability is being incorporated into corporate controlling. What impact will this have on the controller's tasks in the future?

If the global temperature rises by 2°C, several billion people in a wide variety of places around the world will suffer from water shortages. Again and again, one encounters these and similar messages in everyday life. Sustainability has long been one of the most current topics of discussion, and sensitivity to it is increasing in all areas of life. This also applies to controlling. Under the heading of “Green Controlling”, ecological aspects are being incorporated into corporate controlling.

Sustainability in Controlling.

Green Controlling is responsible for taking the ecological aspects of sustainability into account in corporate controlling. These must be incorporated more strongly into enterprise performance management, so that the effects and goals of ecological corporate strategies can be verified. In this context, controlling is to advise the company management on the implementation of ecological issues.

With these new demands and subject areas, the range of tasks of the controller is also expanding. New metrics and valuation approaches are needed, as well as different communication and interpretation of investment opportunities. The following new tasks can be defined:

  • Further development of controlling structures and systems in line with sustainable aspects
  • Development of “green” KPIs
  • Adapt investment calculations accordingly in order to be able to assess investment and innovation measures
  • Monitoring of sustainable goals
  • Carrying out competitive analyses with regard to sustainability, development of sustainable success factors
  • Increasing awareness of sustainable issues within the company

Currently, however, the implementation of these new tasks is still a challenge for controlling. In particular, measuring and evaluating sustainability initiatives is still difficult, as investments in this area, for example, tend to pay off in the long term and there is often a lack of concrete, measurable KPIs. However, the standard of the ‘Sustainability Reporting Guidelines’ of the Global Reporting Initiative ( is a start. The guidelines define around 130 indicators that can be used to measure sustainability performance in terms of the environmental, economic and social dimensions.

Furthermore, internal communication often still causes problems because the roles are not clearly defined, there is a lack of coordination, and there are problems of understanding and knowledge deficits. Processes still need to be established and optimized, as there is little experience in dealing with sustainability initiatives in companies. It is therefore important to work out these issues together.

Implementing Green Controlling – Models and Approaches

But how can sustainability be achieved satisfactorily? The three-pillar model of sustainable development, for example, which is made up of the ecological, economic and social dimensions, serves as a point of reference. The thesis of this model is that sustainable development is only possible through the interaction of environmental, economic and social goals. The ecological dimension refers primarily to the protection of natural resources, such as water. The economic dimension refers to long-term prosperity, while the social dimension addresses the equitable distribution of goods and intergenerational justice.

Green business models with many drivers and variables are even more sustainable if they are thought of in the long term. Starting with the individual and extending to corporations, sustainable responsibility relates to all three dimensions. In the case of companies, the focus has so far been primarily on the economic dimension, but as a result of the general public’s increasing attention to sustainable behavior, the other two dimensions are also increasingly coming to the fore. In order for a company to be successful in the area of sustainability in the long term, the five-step model serves as an orientation.

Five-step model to sustainable business success. Based on: Nidumolu/Prahald/Rangaswami (2009), Five Steps to a Sustainable Enterprise, in: Harvard Business Manager, H. 12 (2009), p. 56. (c) ICV, 2011. (Source)

The five-step model offers a guideline for developing step by step as a company and also using the topic of sustainability for economic success. Sustainability holds many opportunities from a business perspective, as new products, business models and markets can be developed. It therefore also serves as an economic investment in the future. However, in order to successfully complete the stages, development must take place holistically. All areas of the company are part of this process and play their part in its success, including Controlling.

How will green controlling develop in the future?

Sustainability will play an important role in all areas of life in the long term, especially with regard to climate protection. Thus, the topic will also be inevitable in controlling and will increasingly establish itself as a fixed component. However, this should not only be seen in terms of the ecological dimension, but also as an opportunity for economic performance, as it opens up a new field in the economy. Only if an investment in sustainable management is also understood as an investment in successful management will we see long-term and decisive changes here.

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