These two companion studies theoretically and empirically examine managers' use of different cognitive frames in decision-making related to corporate sustainability. Study I is a theoretical undertaking aimed at highlighting potential zones of investigation arising from the introduction of paradox theory into managerial accounting. First, I examine extant literature on paradoxes to garner an understanding of its evolution and application in the management and psychology domains. Second, I use current constructs and typologies to identify multiple sustainability and managerial accounting tensions as paradoxical. Third, I make recommendations on how to apply paradox theory more effectively to the corporate sustainability tensions I identified. I conclude the first paper with research questions pertaining to managerial accounting in corporate sustainability. Study II is a behavioral experiment. In this study I examine the effects of business case and paradoxical case cognition on managers and seek to uncover which organizational performance measures better support each cognition. Scholars suggest that the tensions in corporate sustainability arise from the complicated and interdependent relationship among its dimensions. and oftentimes progress towards any single dimension, might have unintended consequences on the other dimensions Hence, the empirical question becomes, amid such tensions, how do managers make decisions that are not solely driven by the financial dimension of corporate sustainability? Applying paradox theory, with its emphasis on acknowledging and working through tensions, holds the potential to elucidate how managers can further explore the tensions inherent in management accounting and sustainability. Study II results show that managers operating in a paradoxical case cognition with broad performance measures made more sustainable decisions relative to their counterparts operating in a business case cognition with narrow performance measures. Together these companion studies generally support the use of paradox theory in studying sustainability decision-making and its use in moving beyond short-term economically focused organizational processes.


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Graduation Date





Roberts, Robin


Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


College of Business Administration

Degree Program

Business Administration; Accounting Track









Release Date

August 2020

Length of Campus-only Access

1 year

Access Status

Doctoral Dissertation (Open Access)

Included in

Accounting Commons