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For-Purpose Enterprises and Hybrid Organizational Forms: Implications for Governance and Strategy  

Marco S. Giarratana and Martina Pasquini

A company’s social purpose has become a key factor that should be considered in organizational design and strategic decision-making. For-purpose enterprises are for-profit, financially self-sustained organizations that embed a social aim as one of their main objectives. Companies that simultaneously must envisage a double purpose, namely, social and competitive, face an even greater complexity, that is, a likely risk of internal logics’ tensions and structural drifts. Scholars have proposed different theoretical and operative frameworks; on the one hand, they describe ad hoc business models to foster synergies between the social impact and economic and competitive-oriented actions. On the other hand, they also try to focus on an organization’s governance, suggesting incentive schemes and organizational designs that could smooth trade-offs and tensions, which could jeopardize a company’s viability. Following scholars have differentiated two clusters of studies: (a) instrumental–strategic–economic stream and (b) injunctive–social–behavioral. The first approach perceives as critical the balance between social-oriented aims and profit with a viable business model. Under this perspective, the concept of synergies between the two aims is critical. Its mainstream framework is the stakeholder theory approach while recent approaches, rooted especially in marketing and strategic human capital studies, bring to the central stage how corporate social responsible actions develop social identity processes with focal stakeholders, which are responsible for reciprocity behaviors. These different perspectives, although complementary, could imply significant differences for the organization design, product strategy, and the role and power of the chief sustainability officer as well as allocation of resources and capabilities. The second group of studies—injunctive–social–behavioral—is focused on understanding how to maintain active social aims under economic and competitive constrains. These works are particularly focused in investigating the intrinsic motivations of doing good and the type of tensions that could arise in organizations with a social mission. The works analyze the potential drifts, risks, and solutions that could mitigate tension and trade-offs. In this stream, the first line of work is related to social entrepreneurship, especially in developing countries, while the second is more focused on human-resource incentive schemes and organizational designs that preserve a company’s social goals under economic constrains.