Social Enterprises in Supply Chains

Ales Jug, Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Abstract

Fire prevention is a critical component in achieving social welfare and prosperity. The lack of worldwide fire prevention leads to an increasing number of fires, as well as to a greater number of fire-related deaths, injuries, and fire-related property damage. Traditionally, fire prevention has been the responsibility of individual governments, while fire prevention duties are usually carried out by local fire departments. Such an approach is very common and is observed globally. Until now, the above response has been successful. For example, due to fire prevention measures applied in the 1990s, the number of fires caused by open flames (such as candles) was significantly reduced. Since 2014, the number of fires in some Western countries (e.g., the US and the UK) shows an increasing trend. In March 2019,11, people have died in fires across Connecticut (O’Neill 2019). From 2017 to 2018, the number of people who died in fires in Mississippi grew by more than 40 percent (Moore 2019). Among the main reasons for this growth are new combustible materials, reduced fire prevention funds, and more dynamic lifestyles. Lack of fire prevention consequently increases fire risks, and, as a result, health inequalities. According to Whitehead and Dahlgren (2007), health inequalities are health differences that are avoidable, unjust, unfair, and unacceptable. The question arises: do current fire prevention services allow sufficient support for people to be safe from fire, specifically in domestic environments? Can social enterprises play a role and how do they fit into the fire prevention supply chain. The purpose of this research is to gain an understanding of social enterprises and their influence on supply chains, in general, and specifically for fire prevention supply chains. This phenomenon is evaluated through the lenses of social capital theory and institutional theory. Research (Rothstein and Stolle 2008) has shown the effects that social capital has on institutions, or simply how can it be used as a strategic resource (Gulati and Gargiulo 1999). Institutional and Social Capital Theories set the foundation of how social enterprises transform and contribute to sustainable supply chains, plus how they solve social problems, specifically fire safety (Patuelli and Savioli 2016). According to Wallace and Wallace (1997), social capital provides a collective resource that can be mobilized by individuals to enable communities to develop resilience against severe threats to public health, such as social exclusion or even unemployment. By identifying three dimensions of sustainable development: techno-economic, ecological and social (Clift 2003; Hutchins and Sutherland 2008; Yakovleva and Sarkis 2010), there are various social capital diffusion mechanisms for building sustainability within supply chains through social enterprise involvement. Transforming supply chains by building social legitimacy and by altering institutional norms, are examples of providing competitive advantages to supply chains and supply chain partners of social enterprises. This research seeks to understand social enterprises and entrepreneurship capabilities transform institutions to strengthen supply chain sustainability. Ideally, these institutions should provide solutions to the problem of decreased awareness of sustainable fire prevention, as well as available resources for fire prevention. This research focus is primarily on social sustainability and safety through fire prevention. The importance of this study lies in our contributions to help diffuse socially sustainable solutions and practices across supply chains. In this case, similar to other social concerns, the problem of fire prevention is a critical one within supply chains and society. Understanding the role of social enterprise to help diffuse these norms and practices help to understand general supply chain sustainability concerns for competitive and social reasons. Methodologically, a qualitative, exploratory method was applied. To analyze the data collected for this research, we used a Thematic Analysis. Three supply chains with social enterprises as a focal firm were investigated. This research contributes by furthering the theory of sustainable supply chains with the involvement of social enterprise; or hybrid organizations - that have both a social and a strategic financial outlook. The research involves the utilization of Thematic Analysis, and semi-structured interviews of three fire prevention-focused supply chains. This study is the first that investigates fire prevention from the perspective of supply chains and social enterprises. The results will inform other types of sustainability and social enterprises, which include humanitarian, environmental, educational, and poverty-based foci.