Motivations and Consequences of the Pursuit of Social and Environmental Goals - an International Study

  • Tran Ngoc Thien Thy

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


The thesis aims to advance our understanding of how socially and environmentally oriented entrepreneurial activities are shaped by the interplay between individual and contextual factors. Accordingly, the thesis builds a multi-level framework to answer two research questions: How is entrepreneurs' pursuit of social and environmental goals shaped by the interplay of entrepreneurial motivation (opportunity/necessity motivation perspective) and contexts? (Research question 1, chapters 2 and 3) How are entrepreneurial consequences (innovation and employment growth aspirations) shaped by the interplay of entrepreneurs' pursuit of social/environmental goals and contexts? (Research question 2, chapter 4). After the introduction chapter 1, the three empirical chapters use Global Entrepreneurship Monitor data (GEM) 2009 to answer the research questions.

Drawing on the integration of the literature of opportunity/necessity motivation perspective with the insights from cultural theory, chapter 2 explores the entrepreneurial motivation of social and environmental entrepreneurs. The finding in chapter 2 shows that necessity entrepreneurs are more socially and environmentally oriented than opportunity entrepreneurs. In addition, national culture plays important role in explaining the difference between opportunity and necessity entrepreneurs in pursuing social and environmental goals. While cultural norms in socially supportive and performance-based societies moderate this relationship, cultural values in postmaterialism do not. The difference between the opportunity and necessity entrepreneurs in pursuing social and environmental goals is lessened by socially supportive norms but is intensified by performance-based norms.

Chapters 3 and 4 investigate the consequences of social and environmental entrepreneurship by integrating the literature on innovation and growth aspirations with insights from institutional theory and economic crisis. The results show that socially and environmentally oriented entrepreneurs, compared to their commercial counterparts, are more innovative and growth-aspiring (especially, in the context of the economic crisis). The findings also provide evidence of the important role of the contextual factors, in particular, three institutional pillars (regulatory, cognitive and normative institutions) as well as the change in the economic climate (economic crisis), in influencing these relationships. Specifically, government activism (representing regulatory institution) and postmaterialism cultural values (representing cognitive institution) intensify the positive relationship between the pursuit of social goals and the engagement in product innovation while socially supportive cultural norms (representing normative institution) attenuate this association. When considering the impact of the economic crisis, the study finds the mediating effect of perceived competition on the positive relationship between the pursuit of social/environmental goals on growth aspirations.

Altogether, the thesis advances our understanding of the important role of the interplay of individual and contextual variables in social and environmental entrepreneurship, in both formation and post-formation stages, which is underdeveloped in the existing literature. This study also offers new insights into social and environmental entrepreneurship by revealing the motivation heterogeneity of social and environmental entrepreneurship. Thereby, the research provides a new approach in researching motivations of socially and environmentally oriented entrepreneurs (opportunity-necessity motivation perspective), complementing the existing emphasis on pro-social and pro-environmental motivations. Besides, the thesis paves the way for future both theoretical and empirical research into social and environmental entrepreneurship by introducing innovation and employment growth aspirations as their important consequences.
Date of AwardSept 2021
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorTomasz Mickiewicz (Supervisor), Ute Stephan (Supervisor), Emma Folmer (Supervisor) & Muntasir Shami (Supervisor)


  • social and environmental goals
  • opportunity-necessity motivation
  • innovation
  • growth aspirations
  • Global Entrepreneurship Monitor

Cite this