Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Thesis Format



Doctor of Philosophy




Vachon, Stephan




Social enterprises use market mechanisms to address social issues that are undesirable targets for intervention by conventional businesses. The pursuit of these goals comes with inherent operational constraints that must be mitigated for the organization to survive, but that are unavoidable without compromising the organization’s social mission. However, the assumption embedded in much of the SCM literature, that profit maximization is the ultimate goal, may lead to the implementation of practices that are inappropriate or even detrimental for social enterprises. This dissertation aims to address this issue through an investigation into how a social enterprise’s social value creation strategy (SVCS) affects its supply chain structure and management, and how supply chain social capital can help organizations overcome operational constraints to achieve effectiveness.

This dissertation contains three components. First, a conceptual framework is developed that identifies the core components of an organization’s SVCS: its activity link, financial model and beneficiary characteristics. This framework is used to develop a set of propositions regarding how supply chain constraints associated with these strategies can be addressed through the development of different dimensions of social capital. Second, an fsQCA study is conducted to validate the propositions put forth from the conceptual framework and identify configurations of SVCSs and social capital that are necessary or sufficient for effectiveness. Finally, a multiple case study is presented to validate the suggested supply chain constraints presented in the conceptual framework (e.g., cost or design constraints, competitive constraints) and presents a more nuanced look at the underlying mechanisms through which social capital contributes to social enterprise effectiveness.

The findings of this dissertation suggest that different dimensions of social capital make crucial contributions to the effectiveness of social enterprises, and that the nature of these contributions varies based on the organization’s SVCS. This dissertation also identifies underlying mechanisms through which social capital contributes to social enterprise effectiveness. This work contributes to the SCM literature by highlighting the unique constraints faced by social enterprises and the supply chain adaptations implemented to mitigate them, highlighting the ways in which conventional SCM intuition is insufficient to appropriately guide the behaviour of social entrepreneurs.

Summary for Lay Audience

Social entrepreneurship refers to the use of standard business practices to address a social problem. Social enterprises have emerged, in part, as a result of difficulties non-profit organizations face in funding their work over the long-term. Social enterprises can take a number of different forms, from providing job training to people with different barriers to employment to creating innovative products that help improve the quality of life of their customers, like developing low-cost solar energy devices for people who live in areas without consistent access to electricity. Although these organizations may look like normal businesses, often their desire to create a social impact leads to the use of unconventional business practices. Included in these unconventional business practices may be ways of purchasing, manufacturing or distributing their products (also known as supply chain management) that differ from what is done by conventional for-profit businesses and may actually work against the typical business goal of maximizing profits. As a result, existing supply chain research and theory is not necessarily suitable for application by social enterprises.

This dissertation aims to address this gap through an in-depth examination of the supply chains of social enterprises to understand if and how they manage their supply chains differently from conventional businesses, and to highlight the contributions that other organizations across the entire supply chain make to a social enterprise’s ability to achieve its desired social impact while still remaining financially self-sustaining. The research finds clear patterns in the benefits of different types of supply chain relationships (e.g., relationships based on personal friendship vs. relationships based on shared values) based on the types of practices used by a social enterprise. It also indicates that these supply chain relationships are crucial to the survival and impact of social enterprises.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 4.0 License.