Is Social Enterprise the New Corporate Social Responsibility?
35 Pages Posted: 26 May 2011 Last revised: 9 Mar 2012
Date Written: May 24, 2011
Since at least the famous Berle-Dodds debate, corporate social responsibility (CSR) and later its more muscular and structural iteration, progressive corporate law, have been discussed without much progress. The authors consider whether the social enterprise movement, which envisions a new sector of businesses created both to generate profits and pursue social goals, advances this debate. They conclude that it does. Proponents of social enterprise believe that such businesses can combine the dynamism of for-profit firms with the mission-driven zeal more typical of nonprofit organizations. Social enterprise and CSR have much in common: both want businesses to take the interests of non-shareholder stakeholders more seriously and play a larger role in addressing social and environmental problems. Yet there are important and underexplored differences. Unlike CSR, the idea of social enterprise is remarkably congenial to mainstream corporate law in ideology and methodology. In one respect, the social enterprise movement sidesteps the CSR debate by operating in a different setting - its vision is realized and embodied in new organizational forms rather than existing corporations. In another respect, the movement shows how mainstream corporate law can accommodate CSR and progressive corporate law concerns without fundamental change. Social enterprise thus advances the CSR debate in unexpected ways - the movement appropriates some CSR notions and shares some CSR sensibilities, but combines them in a manner that should please corporate contractarians, alarm proponents of progressive corporate law, and discomfort some proponents of CSR.
Keywords: ssocial enterprise, social entrepreneurship, hybrid organization, corporate law, legal form, organizational form, corporations, corporate social responsibility, Adolf Berle
JEL Classification: L2, L20, L21, L22, L31, L33, M13, M14, K22
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation