Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 159, Issue 2, pp 325–341 | Cite as

Data Envelopment Analysis and Social Enterprises: Analysing Performance, Strategic Orientation and Mission Drift

  • Matthias StaessensEmail author
  • Pieter Jan Kerstens
  • Johan Bruneel
  • Laurens Cherchye
Original Paper


This study endorses the use of data envelopment analysis, which uses benefit-of-the-doubt weighting to evaluate the social, economic and overall performance of social enterprises. This methodology is especially useful for creating composite indicators based on multiple outputs expressed in different measurement units, and allows for enterprise-specific weighting of the different objectives. Applying this methodology on a unique longitudinal dataset of Flemish sheltered workshops suggests that social enterprises may face different types of mission drift. Further, our results show that top-performing social enterprises are more economically and socially efficient than low performers. These top performers also have a stronger economic orientation, which sheds new light on the balance between social and economic orientations in social enterprises.


Social entrepreneurship Mission drift Performance measurement 



We would like to thank editor Robert Phillips, guest editors Luca Mongelli, Tomislav Rimac, Francesco Rullani, and Ramus Tommaso, and the anonymous reviewers for their constructive feedback. We would also like to thank the audience at the Academy of Management Conference (Atlanta, 2017) and at the 1st IESE-LUISS Business School Conference on Responsibility, Sustainability and Social Entrepreneurship (Rome, 2017) for their thoughtful reflections and comments on earlier versions of this paper. Lastly, we are also grateful to the Flemish Department of Work and Social Economy for providing access to the data and to the sector organisations Samen Sociaal Tewerkstellen and Groep Maatwerk for their support and feedback.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants in the study.

Research Involving Human Participants and/or Animals

This work does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Matthias Staessens
    • 2
    Email author
  • Pieter Jan Kerstens
    • 3
  • Johan Bruneel
    • 1
    • 2
  • Laurens Cherchye
    • 2
  1. 1.IÉSEG School of Management, LEM (UMR-CNRS 9221)LilleFrance
  2. 2.KU LeuvenKortrijkBelgium
  3. 3.University of CopenhagenFrederiksberg CDenmark

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