Proceedings of 32nd International Business Research Conference

Proceedings of 32nd International Business Research Conference
23 - 25 November, 2015, Rendezvous Hotel, Melbourne, Australia, ISBN: 978-1-922069-89-4
How to Improve the Sustainability of Social Enterprises?
Ada Hiu Kan Wong
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. The re-investment
requirement may limit their resources to compete with 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 urgent research question 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,
by improving 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 within the business
from 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.
Keywords: Social enterprise, Marketing capabilities, Learning orientation
Assistant Professor, Department of Marketing and International Business, Lingnan University, Tuen
Mun, N.T., Hong Kong, E-mail: