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. The Power of C.E.O. Activism: How Politically Outspoken Executives Sway Public (and Consumer) Opinion

    Aaron K. Chatterji and Michael W. Toffel

    Some CEOs are making news by taking public stances on controversial social issues largely unrelated to their core business. This article summarizes the insights from our research paper that shows that such "CEO activism" can influence public opinion and consumer attitudes.

    Keywords: leadership; Leadership &Corporate Accountability; Non-market Strategy; corporate social responsibility; politics; political influence; political strategy; political risk; equity; gender; climate change; Communication Strategy; Law; Leadership; Brands and Branding; Media; Problems and Challenges; Civil Society or Community; Social Issues; Public Opinion; United States; Georgia (state, US); North Carolina; Indiana; Indianapolis;


    Chatterji, Aaron K., and Michael W. Toffel. "The Power of C.E.O. Activism: How Politically Outspoken Executives Sway Public (and Consumer) Opinion." Grey Matter. New York Times (April 3, 2016), SR10. View Details
  2. Apple: Privacy vs. Safety?

    Henry McGee, Nien-hê Hsieh and Sarah McAra

    In 2015, Apple CEO Tim Cook debuted the iPhone 6S with enhanced security measures that enflamed a debate on privacy and public safety around the world. The iPhone 6S, amidst a heightened concern for privacy following the 2013 revelation of clandestine U.S. surveillance programs, employed a default encryption system that prevented both Apple and government authorities from accessing data stored on the device. Law enforcement officials warned that the encryption hindered investigations for criminal cases and international terrorism and called on Apple to build a backdoor, a way to bypass the encryption. But Cook maintained that any backdoor would compromise customers’ privacy and security. In 2016, a federal judge ordered Apple to provide technical assistance to unlock the iPhone used by a terrorist who, along with his wife, killed 14 people in San Bernardino, California. Apple refused to comply with the order and asked the government to withdraw its demand. As the court case unfolded, Cook considered his responsibilities to the U.S. government as well as to Apple’s customers, employees, and shareholders.

    Keywords: iphone; encryption; data privacy; Safety; Corporate Social Responsibility and Impact; Mobile Technology; Civil Society or Community; National Security; Leadership; Technology Industry; Consumer Products Industry; United States;


    McGee, Henry, Nien-hê Hsieh, and Sarah McAra. "Apple: Privacy vs. Safety?" Harvard Business School Case 316-069, March 2016. View Details
  3. Advanced Leadership Pathways: Doug Rauch and the Daily Table

    Rosabeth Moss Kanter, Peter Zimmerman and Penelope Rossano

    Former Trader Joe’s President Doug Rauch developed an innovative idea to address the challenge of food insecurity, food waste, and nutrition. His concept was a new retail grocery model, offering nutritious affordable food to a food insecure population in the inner city using excess inventory. His path was not an easy one, but by April 2015, Rauch was celebrating the upcoming launch of his Boston pilot and flagship store, Daily Table. Daily Table would be able to test its operating model and impact, better understand its customer base, and establish community partnerships. After further expansion to other sites in Boston, Daily Table planned to expand nationally. But there were questions about whether acceptance by one community would transfer to others and what could Rauch do to prepare himself and his team.

    Keywords: Food; Social Entrepreneurship; Social Enterprise; Nonprofit Organizations;


    Kanter, Rosabeth Moss, Peter Zimmerman, and Penelope Rossano. "Advanced Leadership Pathways: Doug Rauch and the Daily Table." Harvard Business School Case 316-105, March 2016. View Details
  4. Advanced Leadership Pathways: Harvey Freishtat and Conversations about End-of-Life Care

    Rosabeth Moss Kanter, Ai-Ling Jamila Malone and Oludamilola Aladesanmi

    Former law firm chairman/CEO Harvey Freishtat was actively involved in the formation of The Conversation Project, a national public engagement campaign to promote earlier end-of-life care discussions among loved ones and then with providers to ensure that end-of-life care wishes were both expressed and respected. The Conversation Project’s media campaign and three-pronged strategy of targeting people where they live, work, and pray, was beginning to yield results. However, questions still remained. Would the health care industry create the mechanisms needed to follow people’s end-of-life wishes? Was The Conversation Project taking the right steps to fulfill its mission of culture change?

    Keywords: leadership; social enterprise; Health; Health Care and Treatment;


    Kanter, Rosabeth Moss, Ai-Ling Jamila Malone, and Oludamilola Aladesanmi. "Advanced Leadership Pathways: Harvey Freishtat and Conversations about End-of-Life Care." Harvard Business School Case 316-050, March 2016. View Details
  5. Do CEO Activists Make a Difference? Evidence from a Field Experiment

    Aaron K Chatterji and Michael W. Toffel

    Several CEOs are receiving significant media attention for taking public positions on controversial social and environmental issues largely unrelated to their core business, ranging from gay marriage to climate change to gender equality. We provide the first evidence that such “CEO activism” can influence public opinion and consumer attitudes. Our field experiment examines the impact of Apple CEO Tim Cook’s public statements opposing a pending religious freedom law that critics warned would allow discrimination against same-sex couples. Our results confirm the influence of issue framing on public opinion and suggest that CEOs can sway public opinion, potentially to the same extent as prominent politicians. Moreover, Cook’s CEO activism increased consumer intentions to purchase Apple products, especially among proponents of same-sex marriage.

    Keywords: politics; policy; policy-making; corporate social responsibility; lobbying; campaign contributions; regulation; Leadership; Policy; Ethics; Governance; Social Issues; United States;


    Chatterji, Aaron K., and Michael W. Toffel. "Do CEO Activists Make a Difference? Evidence from a Field Experiment." Harvard Business School Working Paper, No. 16-100, March 2016. View Details
  6. Nuclear Energy: An Answer to Climate Change?

    Michael W. Toffel, Glen W. S. Dowell and James Weber

    Environmental activist groups have traditionally opposed nuclear energy. However, the growing environmental problems associated with global climate change require major changes to reduce the carbon intensity of electricity generation. Should environmental groups reverse course and support the construction of new nuclear plants—using technology that could be rapidly deployed at scale—to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that are causing global climate change?

    Keywords: nuclear energy; nuclear power; climate change; safety; activism; Energy; Energy Generation; Environmental Sustainability; Non-Governmental Organizations; Non-Renewable Energy; Energy Industry; United States;


    Toffel, Michael W., Glen W. S. Dowell, and James Weber. "Nuclear Energy: An Answer to Climate Change?" Harvard Business School Case 616-052, February 2016. View Details
  7. SAP SE: Autism at Work

    Gary P. Pisano and Robert D. Austin

    This case describes SAP's "Autism at Work" program, which integrates people with autism into the company's workforce. The company has a stated objective of making 1% of its workforce people with autism by 2020. SAP's rationale for the program is based on the belief that "neurodiversity" contributes to the company's overall innovative capabilities ("We believe that innovation comes from the edges"). Thus, the program is not viewed as a subsidized Corporate Social Responsibility activity but as a positive net benefit activity, as well as a way of addressing skills shortages by tapping into non-traditional pools of (considerable) talent. The case explores how SAP is also using the program to rethink and re-engineer its Human Resource Management policies and processes to make them more inclusive and effective.

    Keywords: software; human resource management; Diversity Management; Germany; Germany;


    Pisano, Gary P., and Robert D. Austin. "SAP SE: Autism at Work." Harvard Business School Case 616-042, January 2016. View Details
  8. Rumie: Bringing Digital Education to the Underserved

    John J-H Kim and Amram Migdal

    In fall of 2015, the Toronto, Canada–based education technology nonprofit Rumie had distributed thousands of computer tablets preloaded with collections of thousands of pieces of curated educational content to nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) in some of the most impoverished countries around the world lacking in basic educational resources. Founder and executive director Tariq Fancy, with his team, were deciding whether to accept a large new order from an NGO in Pakistan that would require Rumie for the first time to provide ongoing services such as teacher training, performance monitoring, and other support. Some on the team felt that providing a full suite of bundled services would detract from their recent push to decouple Rumie's software and services from the physical tablets to achieve greater reach and scale. In October 2015, Rumie opened the LearnCloud, its proprietary online content curation portal for NGOs, to the public. Now anyone could discover, share, and rate free digital educational content from any source. Fancy considered, "Education access represents a big order and huge growth, but does it lead us into doing things we haven't done before, may not be good at, and may not be scalable to be used by different partners in different geographies?"

    Keywords: education; Edtech; education technology; social enterprise; technological innovation; nonprofit; education startup; Technological Innovation; Nonprofit Organizations; Social Entrepreneurship; Education; Business Startups; Education Industry; Canada; Africa;


    Kim, John J-H, and Amram Migdal. "Rumie: Bringing Digital Education to the Underserved." Harvard Business School Case 316-140, January 2016. View Details
  9. Executive Compensation and Environmental Harm

    Dylan Minor

    We explore the relationship between managerial incentives and environmental harm. We find that high-powered executive compensation packages can increase the odds of environmental law-breaking by 40-60% and the magnitude of environmental harm by over 100%. We document similar results for the setting of executive compensation and financial accounting misconduct. Finally, we outline some managerial and policy implications to blunt these adverse incentive effects.

    Keywords: Executive Compensation; corporate governance; Misconduct; environmental performance; accounting scandal; sustainable finance; Crime and Corruption; Corporate Social Responsibility and Impact; Executive Compensation; Environmental Sustainability; Corporate Governance;


    Minor, Dylan. "Executive Compensation and Environmental Harm." Harvard Business School Working Paper, No. 16-076, January 2016. (Revised April 2016.) View Details
  10. Haiti Hope: Innovating the Mango Value Chain

    Amy C. Edmondson and Jean-François Harvey

    This case study examines a market-based approach to economic development through the eyes of NGO TechnoServe's project manager, implementing a US$9.5 million five-year public-private partnership between Coca-Cola, IDB, and USAID. The case ends at the beginning of the final year of the project, presents the project’s advances, and invites students to position themselves in front of three options regarding the exit strategy to be deployed to ensure sustainability.

    Haiti Hope was to provide 25,000 Haitian farmers with world-class business and industry expertise to help them grow mangos more efficiently and abundantly, and secure access to new markets with the aim of doubling their income and raising their standard of living and, ultimately, contributing to the revitalization of the Haitian economy. The project structure devised by the partners to govern execution consisted of an implementation team and operating and steering committees. The partners with the implementer, TechnoServe, had agreed on a strategy that turned out to be difficult to execute due to local institutions, farmer cooperatives, which acted as gatekeepers and made it difficult to reach the critical mass of farmers to participate in the project. TechnoServe's project manager had to convince the partners to shift strategy to work directly with cooperative members rather than with the leadership. The project manager succeeded—Partners accepted to create a new intermediary channel with and for smallholder farmers, termed Producer Business Groups (PBGs). PBGs eschewed the diverse political goals of most cooperatives, and focused on the production and commercialization of members' mangoes and other agricultural products.

    By 2013, 18,000 farmers had been organized into PBGs for better access to markets, information and agricultural extension services, and approximately 70% of them had adopted best practices from training. Project trained farmers were using standardized sales units, enjoying greater bargaining power, and had access to credit. They were also earning higher prices for mangoes, which rose by 32% on average. By 2014, 3,356 of these farmers were selling directly to exporters via this new PBG channel. With the project entering its final year of implementation, only one season remained for course corrections and formulation of an exit strategy. Although confident in the new strategy, the partners recognized that sustainability of the innovations to the mango supply chain depended on ensuring that every player was profitable, and that local actors possessed both the motivation and capability to take over the activities being performed by TechnoServe. The project manager had to be sure that under the control of private sector partners the PBGs would continue to provide training and other agricultural extension services, such as communicating market prices, as well as continue to pursue ways to connect farmers directly and efficiently with exporters. Only one year remained to identify and implement additional initiatives to improve the structure of their supply chains so as to enable farmers and exporters to better compete in international markets.

    Keywords: sustainability; supply chain management; economic development; corporate social responsibility; emerging country; teaming; Public-private partnership; inter-organizational relationships; collaboration; strategy implementation; learning; agricultural commodity; Plant-Based Agribusiness; Public Sector; Supply Chain Management; Customer Value and Value Chain; Corporate Social Responsibility and Impact; Learning; Partners and Partnerships; Private Sector; Developing Countries and Economies; Food and Beverage Industry; Agriculture and Agribusiness Industry; Haiti;


    Edmondson, Amy C., and Jean-François Harvey. "Haiti Hope: Innovating the Mango Value Chain." Harvard Business School Case 616-040, January 2016. View Details
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