This project investigates the rise of social entrepreneurship in the increasingly financialized economy. We chronicle the ten-year-long struggle of the B Corporation movement, which introduces an alternative organizational form dedicated to social and environmental sustainability. Social movement literature has documented how these market alternatives – new products and organizational forms that embody an alternative institutional logic – challenge incumbents and drive institutional change (Weber et al., 2008; Rao, 2009; McInerney, 2004). Yet research has also shown that in response to market alternatives, strategic incumbents resist through variegated behaviors: ostensibly endorsing the alternative logic to co-opt challengers, while simultaneously maintaining their commitment to the dominant logic to marginalize challengers (Sikavica and Pozner, 2013; Jaffee, 2012). Indeed, large corporations in recent years similarly engaged in variegated behaviors by ostensibly embracing sustainability causes, while continuing their commitment to shareholder value maximization.
However, little is known how strategic incumbents’ variegated behaviors affect new waves of challenger mobilization, and how these mobilizations may develop differently. We address this shortcoming through a multi-method, multi-stage investigation into the rise of B Corporation movement against variegated corporate actions. It reveals that 1) strategic incumbents encourage new waves of challenger mobilization, 2) by seeding divergent frames within them, and 3) this heterogeneity can ultimately lead to a paradoxical form of mobilization, wherein challengers dynamically balance the tension between movement expansion and purity to sustain a fundamental challenge against incumbents. This research advances the research on social movements and institutional change by showing that incumbents’ strategic attempts at maintaining dominance can ironically facilitate further institutional change by encouraging more vigorous challenger movements.
Kim, S. & Schifeling, T.(under 3rd-round review, Administrative Science Quarterly). Title removed for blind review.
Kim, S., Karlesky, M.J., Myers, C.G., & Schifeling, T. June 2016. Why Companies are Becoming B Corporations.Harvard Business Review.