Supervisor: Dr Leila Alinaghian


Social enterprises (i.e. organisations pursuing a social mission while engaging in commercial activities to generate revenue and thus sustain their operations, Dacin et al., 2010) have become increasingly relevant over the past several years, acting as one of the main channels through which societies address grand challenges (Harding, 2004). In the UK, 100,000 social enterprises contribute £60 billion to the economy and create 2 million jobs, while addressing various social issues (Social Enterprise UK, 2018).

Social enterprises adopt different business models to create social value while simultaneously achieve economic viability. Some social enterprises may opt to serve beneficiaries (an individual or group for whom the social value is being created) through the provision of products or services. As the beneficiaries are the recipients of a product or service, these organisations constantly strive to find innovative ways to minimise the cost of production and delivery to sell affordable goods or services to those in need. Other social enterprises however may include the beneficiaries into the enterprise value-creating process (Saebi et al., 2019). For instance, social enterprises may employ the beneficiaries into their organisation or use them in their supply chains (e.g. source from the beneficiaries as upstream suppliers of products or services or use them as downstream distributors of finished goods, Sodhi and Tang, 2011; Sodhi and Tang, 2014).

Extant research has largely focused on organisations serving beneficiaries as potential customers (also known as “base of the pyramid”, Tate et al., 2019). Yes, very little research has examined social enterprises that include beneficiaries into their value-creating processes and in particular into their end-to-end supply chains (Longoni et al., 2019; Pullman et al., 2018). Due to the combination of commercial and social-welfare logics in supply chain management decisions, the management of supply chain for these enterprises appears fundamentally distinct from traditional supply chain management in terms of supply chain strategy, stakeholder identification and engagement, and relationship management (Pullman et al., 2018). In addition to tensions within the organisation, the presence of multiple logics also generate tension between the social enterprise and its supply chain stakeholders requiring different strategies and enactment mechanisms to coordinate supply chain activities (social enterprises sourcing from beneficiaries and selling to private sector businesses) (Longoni et al., 2019). This programme of research seeks to identify the challenges of forming and managing relationships in these supply chains where often conflict of business logics and the heterogeneity of practices prevail.

Possible Research Areas

The proposed study aims to unpack the nuances of beneficiaries as an emerging micro enterprise that is embedded within the social enterprise supply chains and investigate how social enterprises can successfully form and maintain relationships with these new supply chain actors to achieve their social goals while staying economically viable. The study can build on the literature that focuses on the relationships between large firms and community suppliers (e.g. Glover, 2020) or start-up suppliers (e.g. Kurpjuwei et al., 2020) while exploring and investigating the unique attributes of the emerging social enterprise supply chains. Within this context, potential research topics in this area could include, but are certainly not limited to:

  • What are the benefits and challenges of incorporating beneficiaries into supply chains?
  • What are the social consequences of the buyer’s relationship management practices for beneficiary suppliers?
  • What role does power in social impact supply chains?

The work can take any shape - from in-depth qualitative case-based and ethnographic work to large-scale surveys in tackling some of these issues. The study will be expected to make an original contribution that will both advance the interorganizational relationships and social impact supply chain management literature and be relevant and useful for practitioners. 

Suggested Reading

  • Dacin, P.A., Dacin, M.T. and Matear, M. (2010). Social entrepreneurship: Why we don’t need a new theory and how we move forward from here, Academy of Management Perspectives, 24(3), 37–57.
  • Glover, J.(2020). The dark side of sustainable diary supply chains. International Journal of Operations and Production Management, 40(12), 1801–1827.
  • Harding, R. (2004). Social enterprise: The new economic engine. Business Strategy Review, 15(4), 39-43.
  • Kurpjuweit, S., Wagner, S.M. and Choi, T.Y. (2020). Selecting startups as suppliers: A typology of supplier selection archetypes. Journal of Supply Chain Management, 1–25.
  • Longoni, A., Luzzini, D., Pullman, M. and Habiague, M. (2019). Business for society is society’s business: Tension management in a migrant integration supply chain. Journal of Supply Chain Management, 55(4), 3–33.
  • Pullman, M., Longoni, A., and Luzzini, D. (2018). Emerging discourse incubator: The roles of institutional complexity and hybridity in social impact supply chain management. Journal of Supply Chain Management, 54(2), 3–20.
  • Saebi, T., Foss, N.J. and Linder, S. (2019). Social entrepreneurship research: Past achievements and future promises. Journal of Management, 45(1), 70–95.
  • Social Enterprise UK (2018). Hidden revolution: Size and scale of social enterprise in 2018.
  • Sodhi, M. S. and Tang, C.S. (2014). Supply-chain research opportunities with the poor as suppliers or distributors in developing countries. Production and Operations Management, 23(9), 1483–1494.
  • Tate, W.L., Bals, L. and Marshall, D. (2019). Supply chain management at the base of the pyramid. International Journal of Physical Distribution and Logistics Management, 49(5), 438–450.

Contact Details

The successful candidate is expected to submit a research proposal, which addresses the current state of debate in research, their proposed research questions, and the research methodologies they hope to use to address these questions. Expressions of interest alongside a CV are invited via email to Dr Leila Alinaghian ( in the first instance.