Towards Systemic Change: How Can Operations and Supply Chain Management of Socially Driven Enterprises Contribute to Change Making


Submissions Open: 1st May 2022

Submissions Deadline: 1st September 2022


Businesses are increasingly pressured to take social objectives seriously, but the trade-off between profit and social goals rarely creates long-term sustainable solutions (Pullman et al., 2018). Social enterprises step in when public and private organizations fail to provide a solution to environmental and social problems, with the ultimate objective to trigger catalytic or systemic change (Mair et al., 2012). These social enterprises are hybrid organizations, which reconcile incompatible prescriptions between socio-environmental and commercial logics (Pache & Santos, 2013). For social enterprises, tackling social or environmental issues is their prime aim, with profit as an enabling factor. Well-known examples are Digital Divide Data, founded in Cambodia in 2001, which has been making substantial contribution to training young, poor Cambodians to “graduate” into higher paid jobs; and Gastromotiva, a global initiative that connects multiple stakeholders around the transformative power of food, co-created the Social Gastronomy movement, and also promoted a cooking school and restaurants based in Brazil, integrating many young people in need into job market and society. While social enterprises may take different forms such as co-operative, mutual organization, or community interest organization, they apply commercial strategies to maximize improvements in social and/or environmental well-being. As a result, social enterprises always have to comply with multiple “rules of the game”, which might give rise to tensions, confusion, or even conflicts.

Due to their hybrid nature, social enterprises often pursue novel, innovative approaches to enduring societal and environmental problems. In line, entrepreneurs are increasingly interested in doing well by doing good. Such novel hybrid forms demand specific and peculiar mind-sets and practices for the management of their operations and supply chains. Even traditional for-profit companies are moving away from charitable alliances towards relationships with social enterprises and NGOs, in search of sustainable strategies and contribution to systemic change. For example, Riandita (2020) indicates that grocery retailers in Europe are increasingly dropping their philanthropic alliances and instead investing in product or process related social enterprises. Hence, increasingly social impact supply chains (Pullman, et al. 2018; Longoni et al., 2019) or development supply chains (Knuckles, 2019) emerge: hybrid supply chains that incorporate a social enterprise as a part or even as the focal actor of a chain or network. They operate differently from for-profit (all similar players and institutional logics) or humanitarian supply chains (which usually have a short-term focus such as disaster relief) but do share similar scope as seen in base of the pyramid oriented business models.

So far, the management and organisation literatures (e.g. Battilana and Dorado, 2010; Pache and Santos, 2013; Jay, 2013; Battilana & Lee, 2014; Ramus et al., 2020) have covered social enterprises as a novel and interesting form of organization – hybrid organization. These scholars have explored issues such as identity, commitment, and mission drift related to social enterprises, and they have extended management theories in this novel research context. The implications of social enterprises for operations and supply chain management (OSCM) have been scarcely considered. As a consequence, basic questions have not been addressed, such as: (1) do we need different approaches towards (strategic) OSCM for social enterprises; (2) how might economic survival, social impact and systemic change be related to operational decisions in social enterprises; (3) how are relationships between social enterprises and commercial organisations started, developed and sustained, and (4) how might the effectiveness of a social enterprise relate to network structure and governance. The rather limited existing research on social impact supply chain management (e.g. Rodríguez et al., 2016; Sodhi & Tang, 2017; Sayed et al., 2017; Tate & Bals, 2018; Pagell et al., 2018; Longoni et al., 2019) shows, however, the potential impact of different logics on the complexity of supply chains and the effectiveness in terms of sustainability, economic or social performance.

While we start to understand social enterprises within an OSCM context, there remains much scope for further work. For example, we know very little about what OSCM strategies are used within social enterprises and how these strategies contribute to achieving the multiple goals of these enterprises. Similarly, while there is abundant research on tensions and conflict between economic and sustainable goals in for-profit organisations, little is known about how social enterprises cope with these. In terms of performance, it is also of interest if known supply chain concepts such as supply chain integration, agility, or lean are applicable and how to the context of social enterprises. Further, most studies to date have focused on the organisational level rather than truly at the level of the supply chain of a social enterprise. Yet, specifically in the interaction with for-profit companies and when dealing with a larger network, additional tensions, conflicts and challenges might appear that are distinct for social enterprises as compared to what we know from for-profit organisations. Finally, the literature has thus far made very limited use of existing theory frames to further our understanding of social enterprises building mainly on institutional logics (e.g., Battilana & Lee, 2014; Longoni et al., 2019) but further perspectives can be developed.


From the above it follows that the operations and supply chain management issues related to social enterprises are important and topical areas; and that the Operations Management research community should be central to work on building these issues. Limited contributions have been made to the social enterprise literature from the operations and supply chain perspective so there is scope for much further research that not only develops the theory base, but also empirically develops the field, learns from and delineates social enterprises from related strategies and phenomena, and that supports managers in their efforts to manage the operational and supply chain aspects that affect the supply chain, whether they originate from within or outside the network.

The objective of this Special Issue is to provide a forum for work that progresses the field of social enterprises from an operational and supply chains lens both practically and theoretically. In that, a strong focus beyond the organisational level is required that explores, explains, develops and tests aspects of these unique entities.

Potential Topics

The special issue seeks both theoretical submissions that serve as a stepping stone for empirical work, and theoretically informed empirical work. We are striving for empirical insights derived from (including but not limited to) survey research, case studies, action research, event studies, interviews, and experiments. We would also encourage work from different perspectives (i.e., the unit of analysis is the organisation, inter-organisational, or the supply chain/network). These contributions are welcomed in topic areas; some example research questions are the following:

  1. Defining and conceptualising social enterprises and chains with one or more social enterprises;
  2. Assessing and evaluating the performance of social enterprises and their supply chain partners;
  3. Linking the operation and management of social enterprises to other supply chain concepts, such as lean, supply chain integration or supply chain flexibility;
  4. How might we classify social enterprise types and what are the implications for operations and supply chain management?
  5. What type of operations strategy is needed to balance priorities and tensions when operating a hybrid organisation?
  6. How do social enterprises measure and ensure efficiency, effectiveness, quality, and other operations-relevant metrics?
  7. What are the differences in resources and capabilities between purely commercial, hybrid, and purely non-profit organisations and the implications for performance or mission drift?
  8. How do hybrid organisations build and ensure trust in inter-organisational relationships?
  9. What are the determinants of make or buy decisions for hybrids and how is this different from organizations that are purely commercial?
  10. How and based on what criteria do hybrids form inter-organizational relationships, how is a successful relationship defined, and what makes these relationships successful?
  11. What are the implications for managing cross-sector partnerships, particularly between government and social enterprise?
  12. Considering supply chain risk, does the presence of donors and social enterprise in a supply chain pose a risk?
  13. Are there any differences structurally between a supply chain orchestrated by a social enterprise and one orchestrated by a humanitarian organization, or a purely commercial company?
  14. How can mission drift be avoided and what is the role of certain partnerships or dominant players in the network?

Key Dates and Submissions Information:

Submissions Open: 1st May 2022

Submissions Deadline: 1st September 2022

Papers submitted to the special issue will follow the typical, thorough review process of the journal in terms the double-blind review process, the number of reviewers and the balance between rigor and relevance. Submissions will be handled by the special issue editors, with recommendations made to the journal’s co-Editors-in-Chief. Submissions are to be made through the IJOPM ScholarOne manuscript submission portal, and authors are encouraged to consult the journal's author guidelines.

Connected conferences and workshops

To be confirmed - This special issue will be linked to special tracks and paper development workshops that will be communicated in due time. Tentative meeting points for all authors interested to submit to the special issue are the following:

Guest Editors


Battilana, J., & Dorado, S. (2010). Building sustainable hybrid organizations: The case of commercial microfinance organizations. Academy of management Journal, 53(6), 1419-1440.

Battilana, J., & Lee, M. (2014). Advancing research on hybrid organizing–Insights from the study of social enterprises. Academy of Management Annals, 8(1), 397-441.

Jay, J. (2013). Navigating paradox as a mechanism of change and innovation in hybrid organizations. Academy of management journal, 56(1), 137-159.

Knuckles, J. (2019). Development supply chains for solar lanterns and solar home systems in low-income countries (Doctoral dissertation, City, University of London).

Longoni, A., Luzzini, D., Pullman, M., & Habiague, M. (2019). Business for society is society’s business: tension management in a migrant integration supply chain. Journal of Supply Chain Management, 55(4), 3-33.

Mair, J., Battilana, J., & Cardenas, J. (2012). Organizing for society: A typology of social entrepreneuring models. Journal of business ethics, 111(3), 353-373.

Pache, A. C., & Santos, F. (2013). Inside the hybrid organization: Selective coupling as a response to competing institutional logics. Academy of management journal, 56(4), 972-1001.

Pagell, M., Fugate, B., & Flynn, B. (2018). From the Editors: Introduction to the Emerging Discourse Incubator on the Topic of Research where the Focal Actor in the Network is not a for‐profit Firm. Journal of Supply Chain Management, 54(2), 1-2.

Pullman, M., Longoni, A., & Luzzini, D. (2018). Emerging discourse incubator: The roles of institutional complexity and hybridity in social impact supply chain management. Journal of Supply Chain Management, 54(2), 3-20.

Ramus, T., Vaccaro, A., & Berrone, P. (2020). Time Matters! How hybrid organizations use time to respond to divergent stakeholder demands. Organization Studies, 0170840619900341.

Riandita, A. (2020). Inter-firm relationships for sustainability. Doctoral Thesis in Industrial Economics and Management, KTH, Stockholm, Sweden.

Rodríguez, J. A., Giménez Thomsen, C., Arenas, D., & Pagell, M. (2016). NGOs’ initiatives to enhance social sustainability in the supply chain: poverty alleviation through supplier development programs. Journal of Supply Chain Management, 52(3), 83-108.

Sayed, M., Hendry, L. C., & Bell, M. Z. (2017). Institutional complexity and sustainable supply chain management practices. Supply Chain Management: An International Journal, 22(6), 542-563.

Sodhi, M. S., & Tang, C. S. (2017). Social responsibility in supply chains. In Sustainable Supply Chains (pp. 465-483). Springer, Cham.

Tate, W. L., & Bals, L. (2018). Achieving shared triple bottom line (TBL) value creation: toward a social resource-based view (SRBV) of the firm. Journal of Business Ethics, 152(3), 803-826.