Beyond green niches? Growth strategies of environmentally-motivated social enterprises

Working paper 108 (August 2013)

This paper examines conceptions of growth found in environmentally-motivated social enterprises. It looks at their different approaches to growth, and the missions and values that underpin them, and the resources and capabilities needed to implement such strategies.

The case studies show that ‘growth’ can take multiple forms. Our analysis identifies three main categories of ESE growth:

  • Small and Beautiful niches – involving deepening impact through close engagement within specific communities or localities
  • Green Knowledge Economy enterprises - seeking wider impacts through developing, sharing and selling knowledge
  • Green Collar Army enterprises - focused on employment creation

Strategies for growth are shaped by complex relational processes. While some ESEs seek growth in similar ways to mainstream businesses, others are more informed by alternative visions of growth, demonstrating sustainable practices and deepening impacts within specific niches/communities. ESEs that are seeking to grow in business/organisational terms, or are dependent on support from larger actors, often confront various ‘dilemmas of growth’.

The strategies of ESE’s help challenge crudely defined notions of ‘success’ and ‘failure’ and the nature of growth. Support for scaling up needs to be tailored to organisations specific needs, helping them to articulate strategies for growth that are congruent with their missions and values.

Research contacts:
Ian Vickers and Fergus Lyon