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. Vox Capital: Pioneering Impact Investing in Brazil

    Julie Battilana, Marissa Kimsey, Falko Paetzold and Priscilla Zogbi

    Vox Capital was the first certified impact investing fund in Brazil. Founded in 2009, it provides early-stage capital for companies offering innovative and scalable solutions to enhance the lives of low-income Brazilians, while aiming to simultaneously generate attractive market-rate financial returns for investors. This case examines the evolution of Vox Capital, across understanding the landscape, launching, raising funds, selecting investees, structuring deals, building investee capacities, tracking performance, developing internal systems, and advancing the field of impact investing.

    Keywords: impact investing; Brazil; social enterprise; social performance measurement; Social Entrepreneurship; Investment Funds; Brazil;


    Battilana, Julie, Marissa Kimsey, Falko Paetzold, and Priscilla Zogbi. "Vox Capital: Pioneering Impact Investing in Brazil." Harvard Business School Case 417-051, January 2017. View Details
  2. United Housing — Otis Gates

    Steven Rogers and Mercer Cook

    Otis Gates has built a successful affordable housing firm. Along the way, he and his partners have engaged in large amounts of community service in the neighborhoods wherein they own properties. Now 80 and ready to retire, Gates is creating a request for proposal for his firm. In doing so, he has to evaluate his firm’s total value and decide whether their social-good mission is helping or harming their bottom line.

    Keywords: affordable housing; real estate; community engagement; social-good; request for proposal; diversity; entrepreneurship; Social Entrepreneurship; Moral Sensibility; Fairness; Corporate Entrepreneurship; Housing; Real Estate Industry;


    Rogers, Steven, and Mercer Cook. "United Housing — Otis Gates." Harvard Business School Case 317-059, January 2017. View Details
  3. Nutrition Science Initiative: Are All Calories Created Equal?

    Kevin Schulman and Matan Dabora

    In 2012, Gary Taubes lunched the Nutrition Science Initiative (NuSI), a not-for-profit organization aiming to question the mainstream scientific paradigm regarding obesity and dietary recommendations. This case provides a brief scientific background on obesity and its causes, comorbidities, and the economic cost of this epidemic. It then discusses the two main hypotheses of diet and the formation of NuSI. Finally, it describes the unique challenges and hurdles NuSI has faced both with funding and with impacting the mainstream scientific community. Could this NGO model of funding the “right” clinical trials be successful? Could it be duplicated across other scientific areas? What can be learned from NuSI’s experience? And what is the roadmap for NuSI going forward?

    Keywords: Nonprofit Organizations; Nutrition;


    Schulman, Kevin, and Matan Dabora. "Nutrition Science Initiative: Are All Calories Created Equal?" Harvard Business School Case 317-033, December 2016. (Revised January 2017.) View Details
  4. Selective Regulator Decoupling and Organizations' Strategic Responses

    Jonas Heese, Ranjani Krishnan and Frank Moers

    We posit that nonprofits that provide a greater supply of unprofitable services (beneficent nonprofits) face lenient regulatory enforcement for mispricing in price-regulated markets. Consequently, beneficent nonprofits exploit such regulatory leniency and exhibit higher mispricing. Drawing on organizational legitimacy theory, we argue that both regulators and beneficent nonprofits seek to protect their legitimacy with stakeholders, including those who demand access to unprofitable services. Using data from hospitals, we examine mispricing via "upcoding," which involves misclassifying ailment severity. Archival analysis indicates less stringent regulatory enforcement of upcoding for beneficent nonprofit hospitals, defined as hospitals that provide higher charity care and medical education. After observing regulator leniency, beneficent hospitals demonstrate higher upcoding. Our results suggest that lenient enforcement assists beneficent nonprofits to obtain higher revenues in price-regulated markets.

    Keywords: Regulator leniency; nonprofit organizations; beneficence; mispricing; upcoding; Nonprofit Organizations; Health Care and Treatment; Revenue; Health Industry;


    Heese, Jonas, Ranjani Krishnan, and Frank Moers. "Selective Regulator Decoupling and Organizations' Strategic Responses." Academy of Management Journal 59, no. 6 (December 2016). (Selected for Best Paper Proceedings of the 2015 Academy of Management Annual Meeting. Winner of the Healthcare Management Division of the Academy of Management 2015 Best Paper Award.) View Details
  5. Corporate Sustainability: First Evidence on Materiality

    Mozaffar Khan, George Serafeim and Aaron Yoon

    Using newly available materiality classifications of sustainability topics, we develop a novel dataset by hand-mapping sustainability investments classified as material for each industry into firm-specific sustainability ratings. This allows us to present new evidence on the value implications of sustainability investments. Using both calendar-time portfolio stock return regressions and firm-level panel regressions we find that firms with good ratings on material sustainability issues significantly outperform firms with poor ratings on these issues. In contrast, firms with good ratings on immaterial sustainability issues do not significantly outperform firms with poor ratings on the same issues. These results are confirmed when we analyze future changes in accounting performance. The results have implications for asset managers who have committed to the integration of sustainability factors in their capital allocation decisions.

    Keywords: sustainability; Investments; corporate social responsibility; accounting; corporate reporting; regulation; Corporate Social Responsibility and Impact; Integrated Corporate Reporting; Investment; Corporate Governance;


    Khan, Mozaffar, George Serafeim, and Aaron Yoon. "Corporate Sustainability: First Evidence on Materiality." Accounting Review 91, no. 6 (November 2016). View Details
  6. Alternative Paths of Green Entrepreneurship: The Environmental Legacies of The North Face's Doug Tompkins and Patagonia's Yvon Chouinard

    Geoffrey Jones and Ben Gettinger

    This working paper examines the impact of two entrepreneurs who offered alternative paths to reach their shared goal of a more sustainable world. Yvon Chouinard and Doug Tompkins were respective founders of the prominent outdoor apparel brands Patagonia and The North Face. Chouinard pursued incremental sustainability strategies over decades at his firm. Tompkins, who went on to manage the fashion company Esprit, opted in 1989 to exit business entirely having concluded that capitalism could never be sufficiently sustainable to reverse environmental degradation. He purchased 1.5 million hectares of land in Chile and Argentina that he converted to protected areas and national parks. The Chouinard strategy represented best practice green entrepreneurship, which if widely adopted might markedly reduce the environmental impact of business, but its full execution appeared possible only because Patagonia was a private company. The Tompkins dual strategy of exit from business and application of entrepreneurial skills to conservation resulted in large environmental gains, including sequestering and storing an estimated 80 million tons of carbon. We lack the metrics and methodologies to compare rigorously which offers the better path to sustainability, but a case can be made that the application of entrepreneurial talents to activities beyond for-profit business (of which conservation is one example) might be a more effective strategy.

    Keywords: Corporate Social Responsibility and Impact; Entrepreneurship; Environmental Sustainability; Apparel and Accessories Industry;


    Jones, Geoffrey, and Ben Gettinger. "Alternative Paths of Green Entrepreneurship: The Environmental Legacies of The North Face's Doug Tompkins and Patagonia's Yvon Chouinard." Harvard Business School Working Paper, No. 17-034, October 2016. View Details
  7. Building a Culture of Health: A New Imperative for Business

    John A. Quelch and Emily C. Boudreau

    This ambitious volume sets out to understand how every company impacts public health and introduces a robust model, rooted in organizational and scientific knowledge, for companies committed to making positive contributions to health and wellness. Focusing on four interconnected areas of corporate impact, it not only discusses the business imperative of promoting a healthier society and improved living conditions worldwide, but also provides guidelines for measuring a company’s population health footprint. Examples, statistics, and visuals showcase emerging corporate involvement in public health and underscore the business opportunities available to companies that invest in health.

    Keywords: Social Marketing; Corporate Social Responsibility and Impact; Health;


    Quelch, John A., and Emily C. Boudreau. Building a Culture of Health: A New Imperative for Business. SpringerBriefs in Public Health. Springer, 2016. View Details
  8. The Integrity of Private Third-party Compliance Monitoring

    Jodi L. Short and Michael W. Toffel

    Government agencies are increasingly turning to private, third-party monitors to inspect and assess regulated entities’ compliance with law. The integrity of these regulatory regimes rests on the validity of the information third-party monitors provide to regulators. The challenge in designing third-party monitoring regimes is that profit-driven private monitors, typically selected and paid by the firms subject to monitoring, have incentives to downplay problems they observe in order to satisfy and retain their clients. This paper discusses the most important factors that our research and the research of many others has shown can affect the integrity of third-party monitoring and highlights some policy implications for regulators designing third-party monitoring regimes.

    Keywords: regulation; Compliance; compliance policies; conflict of interest; independent third party; inspection; audit quality; auditor; audit; environment; safety; labor; Safety; Conflict of Interests; Working Conditions; Corporate Social Responsibility and Impact; Governance Compliance; Accounting Audits;


    Short, Jodi L., and Michael W. Toffel. "The Integrity of Private Third-party Compliance Monitoring." Administrative & Regulatory Law News 42, no. 1 (Fall 2016): 22–25. View Details
  9. Ekal Vidyalaya: Education for Rural India

    David Drake, Namrata Bhattacharya, Pooja Godbole and Amrita Saigal

    By examining Ekal Vidyalaya (Ekal), a nonprofit network of schools in India, this case focuses on the classic challenge faced by organizations that grow through replication (e.g., McDonald's, Starbucks, Walmart, Whole Foods): How can they continue to drive growth when their well of attractive locations begins to dry up?

    In 1986, a group of social entrepreneurs reimagined education in India, developing a low-cost, "one-teacher school" model to provide educational access in regions that had proven cost prohibitive for government schools. They founded Ekal to fulfill the vision of a network of 100,000 one-teacher schools throughout rural India. More than a quarter century later, in 2014, the Ekal network included over 54,000 schools. However, with the emergence of India as an economic power, government schools had received the mandate and funds to extend their reach to many of the regions that Ekal serves. Was it time for Ekal to reevaluate their vision; was the target of 100,000 schools, which had driven their growth thus far, still the best path forward? Or was it time to declare their mission of universal access to education a success in the regions that government schools now served and begin to scale back from those areas?

    Keywords: Nonprofit Organizations; Early Childhood Education; India;


    Drake, David, Namrata Bhattacharya, Pooja Godbole, and Amrita Saigal. "Ekal Vidyalaya: Education for Rural India." Harvard Business School Case 617-021, September 2016. View Details
  10. LabCDMX: Experiment 50

    Mitchell Weiss and Maria Fernanda Miguel

    There were probably 30,000 public buses, minibuses, and vans in Mexico City. Though, in 2015, no one knew for certain since no comprehensive schedule existed. This was why el Laboratorio para la Ciudad (or LabCDMX) had spawned an effort to generate a map of the labyrinth system that provided an estimated 14 million rides a day. Gabriella Gómez-Mont, the Lab’s founder and director, had led her team in a project to crowd-source the routes from volunteer riders in what came to be known as Mapatón CDMX. After four pilots and a two-week “mapping marathon” later, she wondered exactly what to make of the lab’s fiftieth experiment? Was Mapatón successful?

    Keywords: public entrepreneurship; experimentation; lean startup; government; innovation; crowdsourcing; Open Data; transportation; Mexico; Mexico City; Entrepreneurship; Social Entrepreneurship; Innovation and Invention; Innovation Leadership; Government Administration; Transportation; Transportation Industry; Mexico City; Mexico;


    Weiss, Mitchell, and Maria Fernanda Miguel. "LabCDMX: Experiment 50." Harvard Business School Case 817-031, September 2016. (Revised December 2016.) View Details
See all faculty publications on Social Enterprise »