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Individual Paper: Social economy growth for a post growth vision of sustainable prosperity

The scaling ambitions of environmental social enterprises in the UK

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Environmental social enterprises (ESEs) and other social economy organisations present an alternative to ‘business as usual’, with a desire to enact environmental and social change, using a range of business models that are alternatives to the maximisation of individual profit. These organisations therefore present an interesting alternative way of maximising sustainability and societal wellbeing in contrast to the dominant economic policy of maximising GDP growth. This alternative has also been articulated as part of arguments of post growth or de-growth approaches.

Building on the concept of sustainable prosperity (Jackson, 2017), this paper examines the role of social economy organisations in articulating an alternative to conventional businesses by having environmental and social objectives that overrides their commercial aims. In particular we examine those parts of the social economy that have a core environmental objective or trading activity. Based on quantitative survey data of 1581 British social enterprises, we explore the following four hypotheses; whether a) ESEs demonstrate hybridity with a combination of social, environmental and commercial objectives; b) ESEs have ambitions to grow and scale up their impact; c) ESEs as alternative enterprise forms are less commercially orientated, less likely to have trading income, and more likely to rely on volunteers compared to other SE; and d) ESEs present alternative models of decision making and encourage diversity of leadership.

This paper furthermore explores the types of environmental social enterprises in the UK and examines the extent to which these enterprises relate to growth. We also explore whether the ESE present a more radical alternative to other parts of the social economy. In particular, the paper examines how different types of SE have different ambitions to grow and scale up (Vickers and Lyon, 2014). By examine the growth ambitions of ESE, we are able to explore interesting tensions of the growth of organisations aiming to create a de-growth economy.


Day: 2018-08-24
Start time: 11:30
Duration: 00:15
Room: Nöjesteatern (Piano bar)
Track: Organisational and Organising Practices



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