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What is a fair profit for social enterprise? Insights from microfinance


  • Marek Hudon
  • Marc Labie
  • Patrick Reichert


Although microfinance organizations have typically been considered as inherently ethical, recent events have challenged the legitimacy of the sector. High interest rates and the exorbitant profitability of some market leaders have raised the question of what can be considered a fair, or ethical, level of profit for social enterprise. In this article, we construct a fair profit framework for social enterprise based on four dimensions: the level of profitability, the extent to which the organization adheres to its social mission, the pricing and the surplus distribution. We then apply this framework using an empirical sample of 496 microfinance institutions. Results indicate that satisfying all four dimensions is a difficult, although not impossible, task. Based on our framework, 13 MFIs emerge as true double-bottom-line organizations and tend to be relatively young, large MFIs from South Asia. Using our framework, we argue that excessive profits can be better understood relative to pricing, the outreach of the MFI and the organizational commitment to clients in the form of reduced interest rates.

Suggested Citation

  • Marek Hudon & Marc Labie & Patrick Reichert, 2017. "What is a fair profit for social enterprise? Insights from microfinance," Working Papers CEB 17-024, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
  • Handle: RePEc:sol:wpaper:2013/258793

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    Cited by:

    1. Hadar Gafni & Marek Hudon & Anaïs Périlleux, 2021. "Business or Basic Needs? The Impact of Loan Purpose on Social Crowdfunding Platforms," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 173(4), pages 777-793, November.
    2. Pascale Lehoux & Hudson Pacifico Silva & Renata Pozelli Sabio & Federico Roncarolo, 2018. "The Unexplored Contribution of Responsible Innovation in Health to Sustainable Development Goals," Sustainability, MDPI, vol. 10(11), pages 1-21, November.
    3. Patrick Reichert & Marek Hudon & Ariane Szafarz & Robert K. Christensen, 2021. "Crowding-In or Crowding-Out? How Subsidies Signal the Path to Financial Independence of Social Enterprises," Working Papers CEB 21-014, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
    4. Lucky Nugroho & Caturida Meiwanto Doktoralina & Fitri Indriawati & Safira Safira & Salimah Yahaya, 2020. "Microeconomics and Tawhid String Relation Concept (TSR)," International Journal of Economics & Business Administration (IJEBA), International Journal of Economics & Business Administration (IJEBA), vol. 0(3), pages 293-306.
    5. Simon Cornée & Marc Jegers & Ariane Szafarz & Simon Cornée & Marc Jegers & Ariane Szafarz, 2022. "Feasible Institutions of Social Finance: A Taxonomy," Journal of Institutional and Theoretical Economics (JITE), Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen, vol. 178(3), pages 280-310.
    6. Anaïs Périlleux & Ariane Szafarz, 2022. "Women in the boardroom: a bottom–up approach to the trickle-down effect," Small Business Economics, Springer, vol. 58(4), pages 1783-1800, April.
    7. Elizabeth A. M. Searing, 2021. "Resilience in Vulnerable Small and New Social Enterprises," Sustainability, MDPI, vol. 13(24), pages 1-21, December.

    More about this item


    Microfinance; Development Ethics; Exploitation; Institutional Logic;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • F35 - International Economics - - International Finance - - - Foreign Aid
    • G21 - Financial Economics - - Financial Institutions and Services - - - Banks; Other Depository Institutions; Micro Finance Institutions; Mortgages
    • G28 - Financial Economics - - Financial Institutions and Services - - - Government Policy and Regulation
    • L31 - Industrial Organization - - Nonprofit Organizations and Public Enterprise - - - Nonprofit Institutions; NGOs; Social Entrepreneurship
    • M14 - Business Administration and Business Economics; Marketing; Accounting; Personnel Economics - - Business Administration - - - Corporate Culture; Diversity; Social Responsibility

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