Social Enterprise

Social Enterprise is a featured research topic and an initiative at Harvard Business School.

HBS pioneered the concept of “social enterprise” with the founding of its Social Enterprise Initiative (SEI) in 1993. Under the early leadership of James Austin on the importance of collaborative relationships to the success of nonprofits and Allen Grossman and V. Kasturi “Kash” Rangan on new directions in nonprofit strategy, we adopted a problem-focused approach toward understanding the challenges associated with driving sustained, high-impact social change. Current research focuses on leadership of socially mission-driven organizations; the role of business leaders and corporate citizenship in driving social change; business models that address poverty; management of high-performing K-12 public school districts; and financing models for the non-profit sector.

  1. Team Rubicon: Bridging the Gap from Startup to National Organization

    Leonard A. Schlesinger and Dan Nidess

    Team Rubicon, a military veteran volunteer disaster relief organization, has experienced significant success in attracting attention and support in its first 4 years of operation. The challenges of managing the volunteer base, the cost of responding to disasters and the evolution of the organization raise significant strategic and organizational issues for the founding team.

    Keywords: Organizational Change and Adaptation; growth strategy and execution; disaster relief; NGO; Organizational Change and Adaptation; Growth and Development Strategy; Growth Management; Non-Governmental Organizations;


    Schlesinger, Leonard A., and Dan Nidess. "Team Rubicon: Bridging the Gap from Startup to National Organization." Harvard Business School Case 315-124, June 2015. View Details
  2. Denver Museum of Nature & Science

    Jill Avery and Jim Rosenberg

    Digital was on Vice President of Strategic Partnerships and Programs Bridget Coughlin's mind these days. DMNS had been dabbling in digital for the past few years, but had never fully committed to it. The time had come to establish a strategic vision, and to decide whether to designate serious human and financial resources. It was time to make some decisions about the DMNS' digital future. The digital discussion was taking place within a larger strategic conversation about the primacy of the onsite experience of the Museum and the need to get outside of its walls to reach new constituents. How should she balance onsite programming, offsite programming, and online programming to maximize attendance and deliver against the Museum's mission? Was digital the magic pill that would allow the Museum to reach new audiences or was DMNS better off delivering a face-to-face museum experience within its own four walls or out on the streets of the Denver community?

    Keywords: marketing; digital; social media; marketing strategy; nonprofit; Arts; Education; Marketing; Marketing Communications; Marketing Strategy; Nonprofit Organizations; Education Industry; North America; United States;


    Avery, Jill, and Jim Rosenberg. "Denver Museum of Nature & Science." Harvard Business School Case 315-081, June 2015. View Details
  3. Colgate-Palmolive Company: Marketing Anti-Cavity Toothpaste

    John A. Quelch and Margaret L. Rodriguez

    In October 2013, Colgate-Palmolive Company, the world's leading oral care company, was about to launch its new Colgate® Maximum Cavity Protection™ plus Sugar Acid Neutralizer™ toothpaste in Brazil. Oral care category accounted for 46 percent of Colgate's $17.4 billion sales worldwide in 2013. The new toothpaste was clinically proven to reduce and prevent cavities more effectively than toothpaste with the same level of fluoride alone. All major industry players, including Procter & Gamble, GlaxoSmithKline and Colgate itself, had long ago launched products with the maximum amount of fluoride allowed by Health authorities. Yet cavities remained a significant threat to public health in many countries, both developing and developed. As Suzan Harrison, Colgate's president of Oral Care, prepared to launch CMCP+SAN in Brazil, the world's third largest oral care market, her executive team was divided over the product's positioning and pricing. Should it be positioned as a basic product to maximize reach for its health benefits or as a premium product for consumers who sought superior cavity protection?

    Keywords: marketing; new product management; Consumer segmentation; global marketing; corporate social responsibility; healthcare; sustainability; Health Care and Treatment; Environmental Sustainability; Marketing; Segmentation; Product Development; Product Launch; Corporate Social Responsibility and Impact; Consumer Products Industry; Brazil; United States;


    Quelch, John A., and Margaret L. Rodriguez. "Colgate-Palmolive Company: Marketing Anti-Cavity Toothpaste." Harvard Business School Case 515-050, May 2015. (Revised May 2015.) View Details
  4. The Columbus Partnership

    Jan W. Rivkin

    The Columbus Partnership, a civic alliance bringing together the heads of roughly 50 leading organizations in central Ohio, has made strides in developing the region's economy. But a stinging defeat at the ballot box has set back the Partnership's efforts to improve local public education. As the case opens in May 2014, the Partnership's leaders must decide whether to continue to try to improve public education and, if so, how.


    Rivkin, Jan W. "The Columbus Partnership." Harvard Business School Case 715-462, May 2015. View Details
  5. Mobile Money Services—Design and Development for Financial Inclusion

    Rajiv Lal and Ishan Sachdev

    Mobile money services are being deployed rapidly across emerging markets as a key tool to further the goal of financial inclusion. Financial inclusion, the development of novel methods to enable individuals at the base of the pyramid to access formal financial services and become part of the formal financial system, is considered a key prerequisite for lifting these populations out of poverty and for driving economic growth.

    Keywords: Social Marketing; Poverty; Emerging Markets; Product Launch; Economic Growth; Financial Services Industry;


    Lal, Rajiv, and Ishan Sachdev. "Mobile Money Services—Design and Development for Financial Inclusion." Harvard Business School Working Paper, No. 15-083, April 2015. (Revised July 2015.) View Details
  6. The Type of Socially Responsible Investments That Make Firms More Profitable

    George Serafeim

    Keywords: sustainability; corporate social responsibility; corporate sustainability; Investing; investment; investment management; Corporate Social Responsibility and Impact; Profit; Investment; Environmental Sustainability;


    Serafeim, George. "The Type of Socially Responsible Investments That Make Firms More Profitable." Harvard Business Review (website) (April 14, 2015). View Details
  7. Statoil: Transparency on Payments to Governments

    George Serafeim, Paul M. Healy and Jérôme Lenhardt

    The Statoil case describes the challenge of increasing transparency, in extractive industries, around host county government payments. The case describes Statoil's reasoning behind voluntarily disclosing host country government payments, and the events that led to this decision. It also articulates how both management and the board were thinking about difficult trade-offs in terms of costs and benefits in making this decision.
    The case also describes self-regulatory and regulatory efforts to increase transparency. The first was the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), which is a set of reporting standards published by a coalition of companies, governments and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). The second was legislation enacted in the United States under the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (Dodd-Frank Act), which requires certain disclosures by natural resource extractive companies that are subject to the reporting requirements of the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). The SEC issued a final rule implementing the Dodd-Frank Act in 2013 but that rule had most recently been vacated by the US District Court and is now subject to being re-written by the SEC.
    Therefore, the case allows for a discussion of firm-specific voluntary, industry self-regulatory and regulatory efforts in increasing transparency in extractive industries.

    Keywords: corruption; disclosure; disclosure strategy; regulation; industry self-regulation; corporate governance; corporate accountability; bribery; sustainability; corporate social responsibility;


    Serafeim, George, Paul M. Healy, and Jérôme Lenhardt. "Statoil: Transparency on Payments to Governments." Harvard Business School Case 115-049, March 2015. View Details
  8. Pearson Affordable Learning Fund

    Michael Chu, Vincent Dessain and Kristina Maslauskaite

    An in-house venture capital fund for affordable private schools at the base of the pyramid established by Pearson, the world's largest education company, PALF sought to invest in business models providing superior educational outcomes in emerging markets on a profitable and scalable basis. With Pearson's overall strategy shifting from the developed to the developing world and from a supplier of books to a host of other learning products and services, the company thought PALF's lessons might be applicable to Pearson's core businesses. By 2014, Katelyn Donnelly, the Managing Director of PALF, and her team had made seven investments in Africa and Asia and were close to fully committing the $15 million earmarked for the initiative. In the upcoming meeting of PALF's Investment Committee, Donnelly must present a recommendation: should Pearson allocate more internal money to the fund or should they open it up to third party investors?

    Keywords: impact investment; low cost private schools; investment fund; business at the base of the pyramid; Education; Social Entrepreneurship; Investment; Business Growth and Maturation; Transition; Development Economics; Private Sector; Emerging Markets; Education Industry; United Kingdom; Ghana; India; Philippines; South Africa;


    Chu, Michael, Vincent Dessain, and Kristina Maslauskaite. "Pearson Affordable Learning Fund." Harvard Business School Case 315-109, March 2015. View Details
  9. Corporate Sustainability: First Evidence on Materiality

    Mozaffar Khan, George Serafeim and Aaron Yoon

    An increasing number of companies make sustainability investments, and an increasing number of investors integrate sustainability performance data in their capital allocation decisions. To date however, the prior academic literature has not distinguished between investments in material versus immaterial sustainability issues. We develop a novel dataset by hand-mapping data on sustainability investments classified as material for each industry into firm-specific performance data on a variety of sustainability investments. This allows us to present new evidence on the value implications of sustainability investments. Using calendar-time portfolio stock return regressions we find that firms with good performance on material sustainability issues significantly outperform firms with poor performance on these issues, suggesting that investments in sustainability issues are shareholder-value enhancing. Further, firms with good performance on sustainability issues not classified as material do not underperform firms with poor performance on these same issues, suggesting investments in sustainability issues are at a minimum not value-destroying. Finally, firms with good performance on material issues and concurrently poor performance on immaterial issues perform the best. These results speak to the efficiency of firms' sustainability investments, and also have implications for asset managers who have committed to the integration of sustainability factors in their capital allocation decisions.

    Keywords: sustainability; corporate sustainability; corporate social responsibility; investment; investment management; investment return; investment strategy; Investments; Corporate performance; Corporate Social Responsibility and Impact; Performance; Investment; Environmental Sustainability;


    Khan, Mozaffar, George Serafeim, and Aaron Yoon. "Corporate Sustainability: First Evidence on Materiality." Harvard Business School Working Paper, No. 15-073, March 2015. View Details
  10. Making the Business Case for Environmental Sustainability

    Rebecca Henderson

    Can a business case be made for acting sustainably? This is a difficult question to answer precisely, largely because there is no generally accepted definition of the term "sustainability". Is it acting sustainably to protect the human rights of the firm's workforce? To invest in education in local communities? To switch to renewable power? All of these actions might improve social welfare, and some of them might improve profitability but they are very different, and the business case for each of them is similarly likely to look quite different. Here I begin to explore the issue by focusing on a more limited question, namely whether a business case be made for acting in an environmentally sustainable way, which I define as acting in any way that reduce a firm's environmental footprint.

    Keywords: Corporate Social Responsibility and Impact; Decision Making; Environmental Sustainability;


    Henderson, Rebecca. "Making the Business Case for Environmental Sustainability." Harvard Business School Working Paper, No. 15-068, February 2015. View Details
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