Quants and Qualia in the Discourse of Social Purpose Organisations
Several findings emerge from this study. (1) Social purpose organisations choose to report social impact in order to manage their legitimacy for a group of financial stakeholders (Suchman, 1995; Neu et al.,1998), which is itself dominated by investment professionals. Thus, professionalisation has played an important role in the emergence of this new language of impact (DiMaggio and Powell,1983; Abbott,1988, Hwang and Powell, 2009; Suddaby and Viale, 2011), but from a distance. (2) The extent of adoption varies between organisations and examples of decoupling or symbolic adoption are found (MeyerandRowan,1977). Some organisations merely report impact for window-dressing purposes when the practice of impact measurement has not been internalised within the organisation - which I refer to as `business-washing'. (3) However, social purpose organisations have multiple stakeholders (Ebrahimetal:2014). I find that attempts at managing their legitimacy have resulted in incongruous couplings of reporting styles on their websites. (4) This incoherent discourse is indicative of tensions within organisations resulting from the adoption of social impact reporting, that can be explained using theories of self-categorisation and social identity (Tajfel,1972; Tajfel,1978; BartelandWiesenfeld,2013). (5) However, even if social purpose organisations engage merely in business-washing, without any internalisation of social impact reporting, we still observe an adverse effect on social identity and staff motivation. This is because the using business style descriptions of the activities undertaken by staff at social purpose entities can negatively affect staff motivation. The attempt at serving two masters, even in name only, may destabilise the moral underpinnings of social purpose organisations and thus attempts to improve allocative efficiency and organisational effectiveness.