Stakeholders Matter: How Social Enterprises Address Mission Drift

Journal of Business Ethics 143 (2):307-322 (2017)
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Abstract

This study explores social enterprises’ strategies for addressing mission drift. Relying on an inductive comparative case study of two Italian social enterprises, we show how stakeholder engagement combined with social accounting can successfully support a social venture to re-balance its positioning between wealth generation and social value creation. Indeed, stakeholder engagement helps the internal actors of a social enterprise to rationalize and embody pro-social values previously abandoned, while social accounting reinforces this embodiment process by showing the reintroduced social commitment of the social enterprise to external audiences. Conversely, strategies focused only on social accounting and without significant engagement of external stakeholders prove to be unsuccessful in counterbalancing mission drift because they fail to activate the necessary process of internal re-introduction and operationalization of pro-social values and objectives.

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