Results-Based Reporting within Social Enterprises: Motives and Benefits

37 Pages Posted: 31 Jul 2017

Date Written: July 27, 2016


Purpose: Social Enterprises (SEs), in contrast to for-profit organizations, intend to solve societal problems while engaging in business to sustain their activities. Traditional accounting literature clarifies motives of reporting for for-profit organizations but little is known about the reasons for SEs for applying results-based reporting and the benefits it creates.

Methodology: Based upon case studies with four SEs, which have successively implemented the first standardized results-based reporting guideline – the Social Reporting Standard (SRS) – analytical induction is applied to develop theory.

Findings: A conceptual framework on motives and perceived benefits of results-based reporting, and in particular the SRS for SEs, is developed. Surprisingly, only two SEs recognized a benefit for their internal management and, interestingly, despite the differences of enterprises and SEs, all motives for reporting can be transferred to SEs.

Research limitations: The restriction to four SEs is due to the SRS’ short application duration and this study’s attempt to capture internal learnings processes.

Practical implications: SRS provides transparency externally and some potential of triggering learning within the organization, which can facilitate efficient capital allocation and improve effectiveness of SEs and the social sector.

Originality/value: Surprisingly, results-based reporting and particularly the SRS is used by SEs predominantly as a symbolic tool for signaling professionalism for legitimization purposes. This is in line with legitimacy and signaling theory. SEs are considered as hybrid organizations but seem to orient themselves strongly on the for-profit sector regarding their reporting endeavors.

Keywords: Social Enterprise, Results-Based Reporting

JEL Classification: M

Suggested Citation

Wörrlein, Lena, Results-Based Reporting within Social Enterprises: Motives and Benefits (July 27, 2016). Available at SSRN: or

Lena Wörrlein (Contact Author)

University of Hamburg ( email )

Allende-Platz 1
Hamburg, 20146

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