New research project to examine the controller

The Swedish Energy Agency has awarded SEK 4.6 million for a research project to examine the role of the controller in the transition to sustainable energy. The project will be based at Business Administration at LiU.

Henrik Nehler, Andrea Fried, Mikael Ottosson and Josefine Rasmussen. Figure legend: The research group at Business Administration: Henrik Nehler, Andrea Fried, Mikael Ottosson and Josefine Rasmussen. Mikael Sönne

Previous research

The CONSENSYS project (The Controller – an unexplored actor in the transition towards sustainable energy systems) began in January 2020 and will run until December 2022. This is a major initiative from the Swedish Energy Agency in which four researchers at LiU are involved: project manager Andrea Fried together with Josefine Rasmussen, Mikael Ottosson and Henrik Nehler.

The fundamental question concerns the role that the controller plays in work towards sustainable energy systems in Swedish energy-intensive industries.

“This is an important but unexplored field. We know that controllers play an important role, but we don’t really know in what way. They may also play different roles in different companies”, says Andrea Fried.

Controllers analyse financial results, make economic forecasts and are responsible that the company management receives the necessary economic information. Members of the profession also function as advisers, and several specialisations are possible among controllers: some, for example, work mainly with business strategy, while others work with annual accounts and reports.

Choice of perspective

When working to increase sustainability, the role of controller may be either to summarise and react or to take the initiative and work proactively. Collaboration with other groups, such as those responsible for the company’s energy consumption, will also be investigated.

“There is also the question of short-term and long-term measures. Do controllers give greatest weight to measures that are initially cost-effective, or to those that become profitable in the longer term? At the moment, we don’t know which way of working is the most common”, says Andrea Fried.

The research will be conducted using interviews, participatory observation, and field studies. It will look at energy-intensive industries in Sweden, such as pulp and paper mills.

The results will be presented not only in scientific articles but also in ways aimed at reaching non-specialist audiences, such as workshops.

Translated by George Farrants

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