Published in: Journal of Business Ethics volume 159, pages619–634(2019)
Cited as: Bull, Mike, and Rory Ridley-Duff. “Towards an appreciation of ethics in social enterprise business models.” Journal of Business Ethics 159.3 (2019): 619-634.
How can a critical analysis of entrepreneurial intention inform an appreciation of ethics in social enterprise business models? In answering this question, we consider the ethical commitments that inform entrepreneurial action (inputs) and the hybrid organisations that emerge out of these commitments and actions (outputs). Ethical theory can be a useful way to reorient the field of social enterprise so that it is more critical of bureaucratic (charitable) and market-driven (business) enterprises connected to neoliberal doctrine. Social enterprise hybrid business models are therefore reframed as outcomes of both ethical and entrepreneurial intentions. We challenge the dominant conceptualisation of social enterprise as a hybrid blend of mission and market (purpose-versus-resource) by reframing hybridity in terms of the moral choice of economic system (redistribution, reciprocity and market) and social value orientation (personal, mutual or public benefit). We deconstruct the political foundations of charitable trading activities, co-operative and mutual enterprises and socially responsible businesses by examining the rationalities (formal, social and substantive) and ethical commitments (utilitarian, communitarian, pragmatic) that underpin them. Whilst conceptual modelling of social enterprise is not new, this paper contributes to knowledge by developing a theory of social enterprise ethics based on the moral/political choices that are made by entrepreneurs (knowingly and unknowingly) when choosing between systems of economic exchange and social value orientation, then expressing it through a legal form.