Social enterprise and market orientation: roles and relationships for the management of sustainable supply chains

  • Marina Gigliotti
  • Antonio Picciotti
  • Andrea Runfola
Keywords: sustainability; supply chain; distribution channels; social enterprise; nonprofit


Purpose of the paper: This article explores the management of sustainable supply chains by social enterprises that sell ethical products in the mass market. This phenomenon is considered part of a growing openness to markets in some nonprofit organizations.

Methodology: The analysis considers case studies of two social enterprises, Altromercato and Libera Terra.

Results: Results indicate the main mechanisms in the management of supply chains by a social enterprise, highlighting the need for a hub in the management of profit-nonprofit relationships. This role is characterized by four main tasks: quality assurance, training and education, experimentation/coordination, harmonization of material and information flows.

Research limitations: This study addresses two cases, and future research in this area should extend the analysis to a higher number of nonprofit organizations.

Practical implications: This article describes the main dynamics of change for nonprofit organizations in the process of opening towards the mass market, concentrating on the ways in which it is possible to manage supply chains and downstream markets in line with their social mission.

Originality of the paper: This article shows the existence of a gap in the literature regarding the presence of nonprofit focal actors in the management of ethical product supply chain.


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