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A corporate social entrepreneur (CSE) is someone who attempts to advance a social agenda in addition to a formal job role as part of a corporation. It is possible for CSEs to work in organizational contexts that are favourable to corporate social responsibility (CSR). CSEs focus on developing both social capital and economic capital, and their formal job role may not always align with corporate social responsibility. A person in a non-executive or managerial position can still be considered a CSE.[1][2]


CSE is a multi-disciplinary scientific sub-field relating to the fields of corporate social responsibility and sustainability. It has relevance in the context of business and management, specifically in areas such as business ethics, sustainability, organizational behavior, entrepreneurship, human resource management and business strategy. The concept has intersections with sociology, anthropology, social psychology and philosophy.[3]

The social entrepreneurship literature has largely concentrated on the voluntary, not-for-profit, or "third" sector. In the for-profit context, the social entrepreneur is traditionally perceived as a philanthropic agent or business owner.[2][4] In the UK, the corporation is defined by the company’s directors and shareholders in its articles of association, requiring employees to deliver returns to shareholders, through their job roles.[5] The exception to this might be the UK’s Co-operative Group, which describes its business as guided by a social mission and is not responsible to shareholders for delivering profit.

CSE is unlikely to have the time or other resources to commit full-scale due to organizational constraints. Hence, corporate social entrepreneurship is characterized by its informality.[6] The entrepreneurial discretion that is required to perform it is controversial.[7] Activity done by CSEs varied across the domains of CSR.[8]


CSE was initially described in 2002 in a theoretical working paper published in the Hull University Business School Research Memoranda Series.[9] The paper argued that personal values could also motivate CSR (and sustainability), along with more apparent economic and macro-political drivers. This reflected traditional business ethics and the philosophical debate on moral agency.[10][11] The paper was then followed by a UK conference paper, published the following year in the Journal of Business Ethics,[12] which discussed the significance of managerial discretion in CSR.

The term "corporate social entrepreneur" was first used in a paper presented during the 17th Annual European Business Ethics Network Conference held in June 2004.[13] The term "corporate social entrepreneur" was defined and distinguished from other types of entrepreneurs, such as executive entrepreneurs, intrapreneurs (Pinchot, 1985), policy entrepreneurs, and public or social entrepreneur.[14][13] The term initially referred to managers. However, employee inclusion was later extended to all levels of the firm.[1]

Dr. Christine A. Hemingway developed the idea of CSE after her stint as a marketing executive in the corporate sector.[3] The notion was also inspired by Wood, who had previously referred to "Ethical training, cultural background, preferences…and life experiences…that motivate human behavior".[15][16]

Business ethics

Embezzlement of social entrepreneurial funds is not unheard of, nor are generally unethical business practices being covered up by robust social entrepreneurial programs.[17][18] Many businesses conduct social entrepreneurship for the sake of public relations.[19] Social corporate entrepreneurship activity has yet to be quantified on any objective scale.[20] There is some evidence that supports the idea that businesses that are ethical, as reported by their employees, are performing better than those that are not.[21] This evidence is joined by other evidence which suggests that employees tend to leave companies that they do not view as behaving ethically.[22] CSE has been described as a manifestation of enlightened self-interest.[14][23][24] Alternatively, a deontological viewpoint frames acts of socially responsible behavior as driven by the individual's sense of duty to society, which may be viewed in terms of altruism.[12][25]


Summers and Dyck (2011) described the abstract stages of CSE as: first socialization, or the conception of a socially beneficial idea. Second externalization, developing the idea into a concrete plan. Third integration, making the idea a reality. Finally, fourth is internalization, or establishing socially beneficial practices in the company.[26]

Some studies have shown a positive relationship between CSR and financial performance,[27] others regard the picture as more nuanced.[28] Consequently, the notion of the corporate social entrepreneur is controversial due to arguments about the role of business and whether or not CSR helps financial performance, and because the concept of employee discretion has been considered a key factor in moral character (in the ancient philosophical sense).[29] Some unethical behavior is sometimes acknowledged as an outcome of discretion and agency; corporate irresponsibility is regarded as insufficient.[7] This is of particular relevance in the global financial crisis of 2008, caused by financial irregularities and lapses in corporate governance. These have produced some calls to move beyond capitalism.[30] Individuals closely related between the financial objectives of a company and public well-being sometimes referred to as Social Intraprenuers.[31][32] Hemingway (2013) referred to the synonymous nature of the two terms: intrapreneur (Pinchot, 1985) and corporate entrepreneur.[33]

The value system that is employed within an organization plays a large role in the emergence of corporate social entrepreneurs.[34] Moreover, the sustainability of social intrapreneurship ventures has been called into question by critics. Socially beneficial ventures often struggles in the short term, leading to hesitance from investors.[35]

See also


  1. ^ a b Hemingway 2013b.
  2. ^ a b Austin, James; Stevenson, Howard; Wei-Skillern, Jane (2012). "Social and commercial entrepreneurship: Same, different, or both?". Revista de Administração. 47 (3): 370–384. doi:10.5700/rausp1055.
  3. ^ a b Hemingway 2013a.
  4. ^ Thompson, John L. (2002). "The world of the social entrepreneur". International Journal of Public Sector Management. 15 (5): 412–431. doi:10.1108/09513550210435746.
  5. ^ "Model articles of association for limited companies". GOV.UK. 10 October 2017.
  6. ^ Hemingway, Christine A. (2013). Corporate Social Entrepreneurship: Integrity Within. Cambridge University Press. pp. 119–192. ISBN 978-1-107-44719-6.
  7. ^ a b Hemingway 2005.
  8. ^ Hemingway 2013a, Chapters 8, 9.
  9. ^ Hemingway, C.A., An Exploratory Analysis of Corporate Social Responsibility: Definitions, Motives and Values, Research Memorandum No. 34, University of Hull Business School. 2002. ISBN 1-902034-24-4
  10. ^ Lovell, Alan (2002). "Moral agency as victim of the vulnerability of autonomy". Business Ethics: A European Review. 11: 62–76. doi:10.1111/1467-8608.00259.
  11. ^ Maclagan 1998.
  12. ^ a b Hemingway, Christine A.; Maclagan, Patrick W. (2004). "Managers' Personal Values as Drivers of Corporate Social Responsibility". Journal of Business Ethics. 50 (1): 33–44. doi:10.1023/B:BUSI.0000020964.80208.c9. JSTOR 25123191. S2CID 154889970.
  13. ^ a b Hemingway, C.A., Personal Values as the Catalyst for the Corporate Social Entrepreneur. 17th Annual European Business Ethics Network (EBEN) Conference ('Ethics and Entrepreneurship', University of Twente, Enschede, The Netherlands, 24/26 June 2004
  14. ^ a b Austin, James; Stevenson, Howard; Wei-Skillern, Jane (2006). "Social and Commercial Entrepreneurship: Same, Different, or Both?". Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice. 30: 1–22. doi:10.1111/j.1540-6520.2006.00107.x. S2CID 154727792.
  15. ^ Wood, Donna J. (1991). "Corporate Social Performance Revisited". The Academy of Management Review. 16 (4): 691–718. doi:10.5465/amr.1991.4279616. hdl:10068/100015. JSTOR 258977.
  16. ^ Trevino, Linda Klebe (1986). "Ethical Decision Making in Organizations: A Person-Situation Interactionist Model". Academy of Management Review. 11 (3): 601–617. doi:10.5465/amr.1986.4306235.
  17. ^ Jones Christensen, Lisa; Mackey, Alison; Whetten, David (1 May 2014). "Taking Responsibility for Corporate Social Responsibility: The Role of Leaders in Creating, Implementing, Sustaining, or Avoiding Socially Responsible Firm Behaviors". Academy of Management Perspectives. 28 (2): 164–178. doi:10.5465/amp.2012.0047.
  18. ^ Dejardin, Marcus; Laurent, Hélène (April 2016). The Ambivalent Effect of Corruption on Entrepreneurship and Economic Development. International OFEL Conference on Governance, Management and Entrepreneurship. Zagreb. pp. 903–924. ProQuest 1803688400.
  19. ^ Chell, Elizabeth; Spence, Laura J.; Perrini, Francesco; Harris, Jared D. (1 February 2016). "Social Entrepreneurship and Business Ethics: Does Social Equal Ethical?". Journal of Business Ethics. 133 (4): 619–625. doi:10.1007/s10551-014-2439-6.
  20. ^ Kuratko, Donald F.; McMullen, Jeffery S.; Hornsby, Jeffrey S.; Jackson, Chad (1 May 2017). "Is your organization conducive to the continuous creation of social value? Toward a social corporate entrepreneurship scale". Business Horizons. 60 (3): 271–283. doi:10.1016/j.bushor.2016.12.003. S2CID 157716734.
  21. ^ Ogbari, Mercy Ejovwokeoghene; Oke, Adunola Oluremi; Ibukunoluwa, Adeyemo A.; Ajagbe, Musibau Akintunde; Ologbo, Andrew Cat (12 June 2016). "Entrepreneurship and Business Ethics: Implications on Corporate Performance". International Journal of Economics and Financial Issues. 6 (3S): 50–58. ProQuest 1809615223.
  22. ^ Low, Mei Peng (2017). Linking Entrepreneurial Orientation and Internal Corporate Social Responsibility to Employees' Intention to Leave in Small Medium Sized Enterprises: The case of Malaysia (Thesis).
  23. ^ Austin, J.; Leonard, H.; Reficco, E. and Wei-Skillern, J. in Social Entrepreneurship: New Models of Sustainable Social Change A. Nicholls, ed., Oxford University Press, Oxford. 2006b, pp. 169 – 181.
  24. ^ Austin, J.; Leonard, H; Reficco, E. and Wei-Skillern, J. in The Accountable Corporation: Corporate Social Responsibility Volume 3 M. Epstein and K. Hanson, eds., Praeger, Westport, CT. 2006c, pp.237 – 247.
  25. ^ Hemingway 2013a, p. 49-50.
  26. ^ Summers, Donald B.; Dyck, Bruno (2011). "A Process Model of Social Intrapreneurship within a For-Profit Company: First Community Bank". Social and Sustainable Entrepreneurship. Advances in Entrepreneurship, Firm Emergence and Growth. Vol. 13. pp. 139–174. doi:10.1108/S1074-7540(2011)0000013010. ISBN 978-1-78052-072-8.
  27. ^ Orlitzky, Marc; Schmidt, Frank L.; Rynes, Sara L. (2003). "Corporate Social and Financial Performance: A Meta-Analysis". Organization Studies. 24 (3): 403–441. doi:10.1177/0170840603024003910. S2CID 8460439.
  28. ^ Barnett, Michael L. (2007). "Stakeholder Influence Capacity and the Variability of Financial Returns to Corporate Social Responsibility". The Academy of Management Review. 32 (3): 794–816. doi:10.5465/amr.2007.25275520. JSTOR 20159336. S2CID 167584731.
  29. ^ Rabinow, P. (ed.), Michael Foucault Ethics: Subjectivity and Truth, Essential Works of Foucault 1954–1984 Volume 1, Penguin, London. 2000.
  30. ^ Mason, P. PostCapitalism: A Guide to Our Future, Penguin, London. 2015
  31. ^ "A guide to 'social intrapreneurs' and where to find them". 31 January 2011.
  32. ^ Venn, Ronald; Berg, Nicola (2013). "Building competitive advantage through social intrapreneurship". South Asian Journal of Global Business Research. 2: 104–127. doi:10.1108/20454451311303310.
  33. ^ Hemingway 2013a, p. 86.
  34. ^ Austin; Reficco, James; Ezequiel. "Corporate Social Entrepreneurship" (PDF).((cite web)): CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  35. ^ Venn, Ronald; Berg, Nicola (2013). "Building competitive advantage through social intrapreneurship". South Asian Journal of Global Business Research. 2 (1): 104–127. doi:10.1108/20454451311303310.