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Social and Sustainable Enterprise

SSE logoThe social and sustainable enterprise (SSE) research cluster addresses the connections between entrepreneurial activity, innovation and the transition towards more environmentally and socially sustainable ways of doing business.

It builds on a tradition of research, teaching and engagement activities in the Business and Law Schools, which dates back more than 20 years. This includes pioneering research on cooperatives, performance measurement for social enterprises, values-based approaches to management, corporate social responsibility, craft-based ventures, and governance and innovation in family businesses.

We have incorporated SSE research insights, including our own case-based material, into Open University teaching materials, including B205 Exploring Innovation and Entrepreneurship, B327 Creating Futures: Sustainable Enterprise and Innovation and the new MBA elective module BB851 Entrepreneurship in Context, and have promoted doctoral research in this area, through several recent studentships.

Our enterprise-related research is also featured in open educational resources, such as the Entrepreneurship Accelerator in OpenLearn Create and has informed BBC/OU co-productions such as Hidden Histories: Britain’s Oldest Family Businesses (BBC Four) and The Bottom Line (BBC Radio 4 / BBC World Service).

Management researchers can make a particular contribution by examining how public, private and social sector organisations are responding to these challenges

Our students live in a world that is confronted by many environmental and societal challenges, the greatest of which is climate change – now increasingly declared as a ‘climate emergency’.  These challenges are typically complex, entrenched and often politically charged. They require multi-level, responses, ranging from coordinated inter-governmental actions to individual-level behaviour changes.

Businesses are often identified as the ‘middle actors’ in these change processes. As a consequence, management researchers can make a particular contribution by examining how public, private and social sector organisations are responding to these challenges, and how they can be encouraged to respond to calls for urgent, and often radical, change.

Our aims

  • To create a focal point for a growing number of researchers who are active in this area, facilitating research-related activities such as joint bid-writing, developmental workshops, seminars, public events, and providing informal support and advice.
  • To provide a stronger link between SSE research, scholarship and teaching activity, both in formal and informal curriculum areas, building on our research-led pedagogy and our links with the Associate Lecturer community.
  • To raise the external profile of our SSE research and encourage more external engagement with funders/sponsors, prospective PhD students, visiting academics and practitioners and others.
  • To offer a point of contact in the Business and Law Schools for anyone engaged in enterprise-related activities in other parts of the University.

Our research

Research in the SSE cluster is oriented around our existing research specialisms, which include:

  • Social and environmental practice in SMEs, social enterprises and other organisational types
  • Distinctive forms of enterprise, including social, craft and family-based ventures
  • Values-based approaches to management and corporate social responsibility
  • Impact investment in socially and environmentally responsible enterprises
  • Green innovations, start-up ventures and growth processes
  • Public policies and cross-sector collaborations to facilitate SSE / social and environmental goals
  • Entrepreneurship and innovation pedagogy, including a focus on SSE aspects

However, we will continue to incorporate new or modified themes, which may emerge from discussions in the cluster.  Given our multidisciplinary approaches, and the multi-level nature of the issues we address, we welcome new collaborations with other research groupings.


SSE in detail

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News and related events

Cover of Eco-innovation in SMEs

Promoting eco-innovation in SMEs– a new European Commission ‘Future Brief’ report

Together SMEs make up over 99% of all enterprises in the EU, accounting for two-thirds of total employment. Though the environmental footprints of individual firms may be relatively small, their collective impact is much more significant.

Richard Blundel was scientific advisor for this independently authored report, ‘Eco-innovation in SMEs’, which presents some of the latest research, evidence and trends, seeking to understand which particular measures can best help SMEs to act on their key drivers, overcome their key barriers, and innovate towards more sustainable, resource-efficient, eco-friendly business.

The report is now available on the European Commission website.

Professor Susan Marlow

Tuesday 15 October 2019

Publishing World-Leading Research in Entrepreneurship and Small Business. Room 2, Michael Young Building, Walton Hall, Milton Keynes – limited numbers: to attend please register with Joanna Bhatti.

Professor Susan Marlow will share insights she has gained from her experience as a world-leading researcher and as Editor of the International Small Business Journal (ISBJ) (2009-16), one of the top international academic journals in the area of entrepreneurship. Join us at this event, organised in collaboration with the Social and Sustainable Entrepreneurship (SSE) research cluster, DSM and PuLSE for useful discipline-specific tips and advice. Numbers are strictly limited to provide an opportunity for participants to ask specific questions and discuss their publishing plans. The first in a new occasional series on publishing in leading academic journals. Hosted by: Liz Daniel and Richard Blundel.

Solar panels in field

Tuesday 18 June 2019

Dr Charles Mbalyohere, Department of Strategy and Marketing, OUBS, organised a semiar: ‘Dynamics and trends in the off-grid power sector: selected cases across Africa'.

 Jean Nouvel

Wednesday 20 March 2019

Social and Sustainable Enterprise (SSE) research cluster launch workshop. This interactive workshop discussed next steps in developing the cluster.