How to improve the sustainability of social enterprises?

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Social enterprise is a hybrid form of business operated with entrepreneurial thinking to achieve both social and business objectives. They not only have to earn profits to sustain their business operations, they also have to achieve their selected social objectives (e.g., creating employment opportunities for the socially disadvantaged, protecting the environment, or providing services or products for the elderly or the poor). Furthermore, to achieve their pre-defined social missions, social enterprises have to re-invest their profits into the business or in the community. There-investment requirement may limit theirresources to competewith their traditional business counterparts. In fact, it is found that social enterprises are generally less competitive and less sustainable than their purely for-profit counterparts (Chan, Kuan and Wang, 2011; Wong, 2011; Yim 2008). Hence, there is an urgentresearchquestion to be examined: What are the factors that may improve the sustainability of social enterprises? In respond to this research question, the aim of this study is to identify factors that shall improve the sustainability of social enterprises. A detailed review in the literature suggests that social enterprises may improve their business performance, and therefore, its sustainability, byimproving their marketing capabilities and be more learning oriented. Increased marketing capabilities may help the social enterprises to better respond to customer needs and wants, as well as competitors’ actions; while being learning oriented is a critical organizational strategy that shall keep a social enterprise focus on learning from its customers, competitors, and even from the colleagues withinthe businessfrom time to time. The findings of this study not only contribute to the marketing and management literature, but also will contribute to the industry by providing practical advice to social entrepreneurs in running their businesses with sustainability in mind.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of 32nd international business research conference
PublisherWorld Business Institute
ISBN (Print)9781922069894
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2015

Bibliographical note

This paper was presented at the 32nd International Business Research Conference, Melbourne, Australia, 23–25 November 2015.


  • Learning orientation
  • Marketing capabilities
  • Social enterprise


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