Article Critique Essay Example

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Article Critique


The article by Hansen and Schaltegger (2016) is based on what the authors describe as the growing strategic significance of social, environmental and ethical issues in performance-related measures of organisations. The focus of the article is the balanced scorecard (BSC), a tool for measuring the performance and management of organisations with an aim to balance non-financial and financial as well as short-run and long-run measures of organisations. As noted by Hansen and Schaltegger (2016), the original BSC has been modified by various authors, with some versions of the model considering social, environmental or ethics issues in what is referred to as the sustainability balanced scorecard (SBSC), which features different elements. The aim of the research is thus to investigate the diversity of various proposed elements of the SBSC based on a review of extant literature (Hansen & Schaltegger 2016, p. 194). The study was informed by the view that to the best of the two authors’ knowledge, there were only a few and outdated reviews on SBSC and no comprehensive systematic review of the aforementioned area had been done. As such, Hansen and Schaltegger (2016) intended to fill the gap in research by looking at how the BSC architecture can be modified to include corporate sustainability.

The research was conducted through a systematic review of existing sources of literature that is relevant to the subject of study. Data was therefore collected by identifying and critically appraising sources of information that were deemed to be applicable to the subject matter of the research.

Brief review of the article’s key points

A number of arguments are made in the article by Hansen and Schaltegger (2016). To start with, it is noted that concepts such as corporate social responsibility, corporate social performance, corporate sustainability and the triple bottom line share the objective that social and environmental issues have to be addressed by businesses in addition to pursuing profits. It is along this line that measurement tools such as the BSC have been designed with an aim to balance the financial and non-financial as well as long-term and short-term and quantitative and qualitative measures of business success (Hansen & Schaltegger 2016, p. 195). Also, it is on the basis of BSC that SBSC was designed, but the latter differs from the former in that SBSC has an architecture that clearly recognises performance measures and objectives that are sustainability-related (Hansen & Schaltegger 2016, p. 196). This point is supported by other sources of literature, where for instance SBSC has been hailed as “one of the most promising instruments for better integration of the environmental, social and economic aspects of corporate sustainability measurement and management” (Schaltegger & Wagner 2006, p. 686).

Another point that is communicated by Hansen and Schaltegger (2016) is that based on previously existing categorisation of theories in the domain of corporate sustainability and associated fields, the authors identified three broad theoretical perspectives connected to implementing SBSC. The three theoretical perspectives are instrumental theories, social and political theories, and normative theories (Hansen & Schaltegger 2016, p. 199). Instrumentaltheories relate to how SBSC and other related concepts can be understood as tools that can be used in contributing to the competitive advantage of an organisation. Social and political theories involve dealing with stakeholder interests that could be conflicting as well as seeking legitimacy. In this regard, concepts such as the SBSC are important not because of their ability to augment organisational efficiency but because of their capacity to help organisations acclimatise to external social expectations, which is critical for attaining legitimacy. Indeed, organisations that show that they are committed to sustainability through their environmental and social activities are perceived to be legitimate corporations (Elijido-Ten & Tjan 2011, p. 10; Lahouel, Mansouri & Peretti 2015, p. 215). Turning to normative theories, Hansen and Schaltegger (2016, p. 199) point out that this categorisation involves being connected with more important and “better-accepted philosophical concepts” that make it a moral responsibility to incorporate social sustainability matters (as well as stakeholders) into systems of performance management.

Analysis of the article’s key strengths and weaknesses

The article can be evaluated in terms of its strengths, weaknesses and the opportunity that it has presented as follows:

Key strengths

  • pp. 15-18) in an earlier systematic review of literature on BSC.Hansen & Schaltegger 2012, instrumental, social or political and normative theoretical underpinnings. The authors also present the various SBSC architectures based on the elements they found as comprising SBSC. These findings are comparable to the findings obtained by the same authors (sustainability issues in BSC is inspired by p. 196). As noted in the article, the integration of Hansen and Schaltegger (2016, p. 196) also go further to illustrate how SBSC comes in as an important tool since it explicitly recognises sustainability-related issues, which BSC does not. However, it has been argued that BSC can integrate sustainability issues in various ways (Möller & Schaltegger 2005, p. 76), and it is for this reason that SBSC can be referred to using other names such as sustainability scorecard and responsive business scorecard (Hansen & Schaltegger 2016, p. 195). Hansen & Schaltegger 2016, The article has comprehensively reviewed BSC and SBSC and presented the different SBSC architectures. Specifically, it is noted that BSC was originally conceived as a strategic management tool that can be used in the operationalisation and measurement of an organisation’s operations in terms of meeting objectives relating to finance, customer needs, learning and growth, and internal processes (

  • p. 216).Hansen & Schaltegger 2016, The authors presented the importance of their research and how the research can be used in contributing to the wider literature on “sustainability performance measurement and management” (

  • Hansen and Schaltegger (2016) have admitted that their results could have some limits. “to some extent generalizable”, p. 125). Therefore, by acknowledging that their results are (only) Briner & Denyer 2012, Hansen and Schaltegger (2016) did] itself offers a test of generalisability. In addition, the major strength of a systematic review is that it attempts to establish an “explicit and methodical way to what is known and not known in relation to a given question” and clearly, this has limits ( (2006, p. 149), the process of reviewing the findings of many studies [which is what Petticrew and Robertsp. 216). According to Hansen & Schaltegger 2016, The authors appreciate that the results are (only) “to some extent generalizable” (

  • Hansen & Schaltegger 2016, pp. 216).English-speaking literature. This means that the review was not rigorous enough to include literature from non-English speaking literature, which could have different views on BSC and SBSC. Also, the authors acknowledged that the literature review only relied on articles addressing BSC (Hansen and Schaltegger (2016, pp. 215-216) note that the sample for their study was obtained from The authors acknowledged the limitations of the research.

Key weaknesses

  • The article seems to have ignored some research questions that may be inappropriate for a systematic review approach. For instance, the reliance on articles addressing BSC could have left out other performance management and measurement approaches that may possibly be related to sustainability issues.

Opportunities presented by the article

Hansen and Schaltegger (2016) are of the view that SBSC is still a work in progress in as far as attaining sustainability in organisations is concerned. Therefore, the results presented by the two authors can be used as a stepping stone in the research on what SBSC should entail, with BSC as the foundation.


The review of literature by Hansen and Schaltegger (2016) shows that BSC can be adjusted to include environmental, social and ethical issues, and this can be inspired by instrumental, social or political and normative theoretical underpinnings. What this means is that there are many ways in which different issues that pertain to sustainability can be incorporated in BSC to form SBSC or a similar model. This is important for academics, practitioners and students in the field of corporate management because the findings presented embody a framework for a deeper understanding of what sustainability entails. Therefore, the findings, especially the SBSC architectures, are important for enhancing sustainability among concerned people and organisations.


Briner, RB & Denyer, D 2012, ‘Systematic review and evidence synthesis as a practice and scholarship tool’, in DM Rousseau (eds), The Oxford handbook of evidence-based management, Oxford University Press, New York, pp. 112-129.

Elijido-Ten, EO & Tjan, Y 2011, ‘Sustainability balanced scorecard disclosures: an Australian investigation’, viewed 18 October 2016, <>.

Hansen, EG & Schaltegger, S 2012, Pursuing sustainability with the balanced scorecard: between shareholder value and multiple goal optimisation, Centre for Sustainability Management (CSM) Leuphana University of Lueneburg, Lueneburg, viewed 20 October 2016, <>.

Hansen, EG & Schaltegger, S 2016, ‘The sustainability balanced scorecard: a systematic review of architecture’, Journal of Business Ethics, vol. 133, no. 2, pp 193–221.

Lahouel, BB, Mansouri, N & Peretti, J-M 2015, ‘Corporate social responsibility disclosure and institutional legitimacy: a comparative analysis’, In DM Boje (ed.) Organizational change and global standardization: solutions to standards and norms overwhelming organizations, Routledge, New York, pp. 207-220.

Möller, A & Schaltegger, S 2005, ‘The sustainability balanced scorecard and eco-efficiency’, Journal of Industrial Ecology, vol. 9, no. 4, pp. 73-83.

Petticrew, M & Roberts, H 2006, Systematic reviews in the social sciences: a practical guide, Blackwell Publishing, Malden, MA.

Schaltegger, S & Wagner, M 2006, ‘Managing sustainability performance measurement and reporting in an integrated manner. Sustainability accounting as the link between the sustainability balanced scorecard and sustainability reporting ’, in S Schaltegger, M Bennett & R Burritt (eds), Sustainability accounting and reporting, Springer, Dordrecht, The Netherlands. p. 681-698.