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Ethics & Social Enterprise

The Ethics & Social Enterprise research group at CATÓLICA-LISBON focuses on two interrelated main fields: the ethical challenges specific to business, and the opportunities associated with social enterprises and social innovation.

Since 2013, group members have published 11 papers on topics related to business ethics and social enterprises in top journals such as the Academy of Management Journal (AMJ), the Strategic Management Journal (SMJ), the Journal of Business Ethics (JBE) and Business Ethics Quarterly (BEQ).

The group’s research insights are among the most cited in the growing field of management of social enterprises, and feed into innovative degree and executive courses on Ethics, Social Innovation, Social Doctrine of the Church, Social Entrepreneurship and Impact Investing.

Members of this group also run the Center for Ethics, Business and Economics (CEBE) and the Chair in Social Entrepreneurship.

An influential voice in the field

Research by the Ethics & Social Enterprise group at CATÓLICA-LISBON has spread widely and influenced not only scientific work in the fields of business ethics and social enterprises but also public policy. In 2013, João Luís César das Neves authored two papers published in JBE in which he applied the thinking of Thomas Aquinas to Ethical Dilemmas and Corporate Transparency. In 2017 he published a paper on “The Economics of Pope Francis” at The Catholic Social Science Review.

In the last five years, Tommaso Ramus has published two articles in AMJ, both focusing the processes through which social enterprises integrate social value creation and wealth generation and gain support from different stakeholders. He has also investigated how social enterprises address mission drift, and his results have appeared in two papers published in BEQ and JBE respectively.

Filipe Santos is the author of the most cited JBE paper from between 2012 and 2016, “A Positive Theory of Social Entrepreneurship”, in which he proposes a definition of social entrepreneurship that helped shape this field. In 2015, the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor adopted Santos’s definition for their measurements. His thinking on the financing of social innovation led in 2015 to the launch of a new public policy in Portugal called "Portugal Social Innovation", also under consideration by the European Commission for replication. Filipe Santos was awarded, in 2019, the Social Innovation Thought Leader Award by the Schwab Foundation for his academic work and promotion of social entrepreneurship and social innovation worldwide. Filipe Santos was considered, in 2019,  the most highly cited Business & Economics professor in Portugal and one of the top in the world by Web of Science

Main research topics

Professors Tommaso Ramus and João Luís César das Neves look at the ethical challenges that entrepreneurs and managers face. In their research, they apply different ethical theories to understand how these challenges should be addressed. Critical Realism, Discourse Ethics or Social Doctrine of the Church are some examples of theories that can be used to understand ethical issues faced by managers and entrepreneurs in a business environment. The group’s members view Business Ethics as a field of research which should be developed with practical applications in mind.

Regarding social enterprises, Filipe Santos and Tommaso Ramus explore how these types of enterprises — business organizations that compete in the market to address societal issues — can scale their social impact while maintaining financial stability. In their research, they investigate the strategies, structures and mechanisms that social enterprises apply in order to transform societal issues in opportunities for innovation and change.

Filipe Santos also studies the lifecycle of social innovations: from their entrepreneurial inception to becoming established practices, products or policies, focusing on business model innovation and processes of societal change.

The group also looks at the financing of social innovation, namely what roles philanthropy and impact investment can play, exploring what new financing mechanisms can do to align financial return and societal impact.

Team members