Will Social Intrepreneurs save the world?

A guest blog from Rob Kyle, current Imperial MSc student

Sosicial entrepreneurship in an organisation has been aptly reclassified as ‘social intrapreneurship’ (SI). These intrapreneurs are described as people within a company that direct an initiative for innovations which address social or environmental challenges profitably.

Clearly intrapreneurship is an evolution from entrepreneurship and holds many of the same characteristics. However there are obvious boundaries and advantages to intrapreneurship; internal politics and lack of support or greater resources and more partnerships, to name but a few.

There are a growing number of social intrapreneurs in organisations around the world, all going against the grain in business to create social as well as economic value. Examples such as Ray Anderson in Interface or Jo Da Silva at Arup have shown that creating social as well as economic value can be achieved. To read in greater depth case studies of successful SI read, ‘Social Intrapreneurism and all that Jazz’ by David Grayson.

Having looked at SI and how popular it is becoming, I decided to focus on the resulting effects on a company’s business model. What, if any, changes were occurring in the way the company created, delivered and captured value due to SI?

Initial research and interviews has thrown up some interesting themes and trends. For instance, partnerships in supply chains are becoming increasingly more transparent. The effect of demanding social and environmental awareness from a supplier ensures they have to follow suit or will lose a valuable customer. In some instances these suppliers become so involved in ensuring they are following the wants of their customers they become a key partner, not just ticking the boxes but actually working toward the same goal, thereby creating a collaborative relationship. A business model that collaborates and delivers value in tandem with its suppliers can only be more successful. Is it possible that these collaborations will lead to a circular process whereby network of companies will work together recycling and reusing products? From the research there is an indication that this may be the case. Although SI may not be the only reason for this transition, it may have a big part to play in building collaborative relationships to start such a process.

Muhammad Yunus suggested that there could be no such thing as a business that strives toward social and financial value. He believed that eventually profit would always take precedence in an economic environment. There’s no doubt that its still an uphill battle to try and achieve a business that can do both, but there are indications that it is beginning to occur and I believe embracing social intrapreneurship is most certainly a stepping stone towards that.


Rob is currently studying for his MSc in Environmental Technology at Imperial College London, after spending the previous four years working for the retailer Harrods. He is particularly interested in social and environmental entrepreneurship, which he is currently studying as part of this Thesis. Rob is also part of an award-winning  team in the European funded platform Climate KIC ‘Greenhouse programme,’  where he is working with on food sustainability and waste.




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