Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 138, Issue 3, pp 477–492 | Cite as

Fraud in Sustainability Departments? An Exploratory Study

  • Maria Steinmeier


While sustainability is largely associated with do-gooders, this article discusses whether and how fraud might also be an issue in sustainability departments. More specifically, transferring the concept of the fraud triangle to sustainability departments I discuss possible pressures/incentives, opportunities, and rationalizations/attitudes for sustainability managers to commit fraud. Based on interviews with sustainability and forensic practitioners, my findings suggest that sustainability managers face mounting pressure and have opportunities to manipulate due to an immature control environment. Whether a presumably morality-driven attitude may prevent them from committing and easily rationalizing fraud remains controversial. Even though cases of fraud happening in sustainability departments are still widely unknown, the interview analysis reveals that sustainability fraud is likely to occur at least to some extent—and presumably remains undetected. The study brings to light the importance of a clear commitment from executives to sustainability to prevent sustainability fraud and demonstrates adverse developments driven by external stakeholders, specifically the bonus relevancy of sustainability index scores. In particular, the study shows a lack of awareness for potential fraud in sustainability departments.


Sustainability Sustainability manager Fraud Fraud triangle 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Ruhr University BochumBochumGermany

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