Doctorate – Social innovation in large companies: the process of incorporating the topic into business strategy
Advisor: Profª. Drª. Graziella Maria Comini
Comission: Profs. Drs. Rosa Maria Fischer, Edson Sadao Iizuka and Edgard Elie Roger Barki
Class: 217, FEA-5
Industrial expansion and technological evolution have brought significant advances to the economy and people’s quality of life in recent decades. However, these aspects have contributed to the aggravation of several social and environmental issues. Based on the discussion about the role and potential of large companies in contributing to new solutions that positively impact society, this study proposes the following general objective: to analyze if and how large companies incorporate social innovation into their business. In order to understand a complex social phenomenon, this study is characterized as qualitative, exploratory and descriptive. The field research was designed in two phases, to allow exploration of different perspectives on the context and practices of social innovation in large companies. The first phase consisted of interviews with five experts on the topic. The second phase consisted of interviews in 16 large companies with 22 professionals working in the areas of sustainability, corporate social responsibility, innovation, and its foundations and institutes. In addition, documents that could corroborate the respondents' statements highlight the public positioning of the companies and demonstrate the relevance of these cases to the study were collected and analyzed. The amplitude of the evaluated data allowed to obtain a general picture of the field of study and to map multiple initiatives developed in business practice. This was achieved based on the perspective of the actors involved. The analysis evidenced that companies perceive to be part of a wider social innovation ecosystem and seek to understand their role within it, as well as possible opportunities for action. However, many are still at a learning stage about the concept and how to insert it into their business practices. Several types of initiatives developed internally and externally have been detected, from territorial development projects, actions to mitigate negative impacts, improvement of the value chain, to more strategic actions, such as the launching of new products that meet a social or environmental need. From these, it was possible to ascertain five different levels of social innovation’s incorporation into the core business, from more peripheral initiatives, in which the company mainly invests financial resources, to initiatives intrinsically linked to its essential activities, using business intelligence for developing new solutions to society's problems. Several critical factors that facilitate or hinder social innovation have been raised, being the importance of high leadership engagement and well-established sustainability commitments and structure the common factors in cases where there has been a greater degree of incorporation into the business strategy. This study is expected to provide insights for deeper reflections on the role and potential of companies, not only in mitigating the negative externalities of their business, but also as propellers of additional positive impacts on society as a whole.
*Abstract provided by the author