Thèse de doctorat
Résumé : Embedding social and financial goals into investment decisions and organizational missions is an increasing hallmark of social finance, a rapidly growing phenomenon that aims to create sustainable solutions to some of society’s largest challenges such as poverty alleviation (Mosley & Hulme, 1998; Burgess & Pande, 2005; Beck et al., 2007a), wealth inequality (Buera et al., 2014; Lagoarde-Segot, 2017) and environmental preservation (Nicholls & Pharoah, 2008) among others (Benedikter, 2011). In recent years, the concept of social finance has emerged through applications such as venture philanthropy (Moody, 2008; Scarlata & Alemany, 2010), socially responsible investing (Renneboog et al., 2008; Nofsinger & Varma, 2014; Gutiérrez-Nieto et al., 2016), impact investing (Bugg-Levine & Emerson, 2011; Höchstädter & Scheck, 2015), corporate social responsibility (Falck & Heblich, 2007; Jha & Cox, 2015), crowdfunding sites that appeal to the charitable intentions of retail investors (Lehner, 2013; Lehner & Nicholls, 2014) and microfinance (Morduch, 1999; Beck et al., 2007b; Armendáriz & Labie, 2011). The microfinance industry is particularly suited to explore the nuances of social finance due to the wide range of actors present in the sector, including not only public, private and nonprofit actors (D’Espallier et al., 2016) but also a wide range of investor profiles including commercial rate, concessionary and fully donative funders (Dorfleitner et al, 2017). To meet these innovations in social finance, a substantial body of scholarly research has materialized in various areas: corporate finance (Bogan, 2012; Tchuigoua, 2014), investing (Dorfleitner et al., 2012; Brière & Szafarz, 2015), nonprofit finance (Jegers, 2011; Roberts, 2013), banking (Gutiérrez-Nieto et al., 2009; Cornée et al., 2016), entrepreneurship (Nicholls, 2010; Bruton et al., 2015), development economics (Cull et al., 2009; Ahlin et al., 2011; Hermes et al., 2011; Hartarska et al., 2013), business ethics (Sandberg et al., 2009; Arjaliès, 2010; Hudon & Sandberg, 2013), organizational theory (Battilana & Dorado, 2012; Pache & Santos, 2013), legal studies (Henderson & Malani, 2009), public economics (Duncan, 2004; Andreoni & Payne, 2011) and management studies (Cobb et al., 2016). However, these theories are often siloed within a particular domain and used separately. Despite a long research tradition on microfinance, there is still an ongoing debate on how to assess profits in a heterogeneous environment with multiple organizational objectives, the comparative advantages of public and private funders and their associated financial instruments to scale the microfinance sector and the nature of trade-offs between the financial and social objectives of microfinance institutions (MFIs). This dissertation aims to fill these gaps by analyzing social finance from an interdisciplinary perspective. The aim is to further nuance our understanding of the compatibility between financial and social objectives and how the trade-off between these two elements is moderated through financial mechanisms from donors and social investors. By analyzing the dimensions where trade-offs are most acute for social enterprises, this dissertation aims to put forth a conceptual framework to help assess profitability. Our analysis focuses on the microfinance industry, which offers a rich research setting due the wide range of institutional profiles active in the sector, including nonprofit, cooperative, for-profit and government agents and its global contributions to financial inclusion, poverty reduction and female empowerment. This dissertation is structured into three chapters, each of which addresses a different research question using different methods and units of analysis. The first chapter is a meta-analysis that uses statistical analysis of empirical research results to aggregate the existing findings on social and financial performance trade-offs as they pertain to microfinance institutions. The second chapter develops a typology of subsidy and donation instruments and then proposes a conceptual model to identify the crowding-in and crowding-out effects of public and private donors on private, commercial investors. The second chapter is complemented with an empirical analysis of a Mexican MFI, Banco Compartamos, using secondary data to suggest how the evolution of funding instruments attracted private commercial capital. Chapter three constructs a conceptual framework to identify fair profits for social enterprise, focusing on the case of microfinance. We then empirically apply the conceptual framework to an international dataset of microfinance institutions. Starting from the observation that no consensus has emerged regarding performance trade-offs between the financial and social objectives of microfinance institutions, Chapter 1 – A Meta-analysis Examining the Nature of Trade-offs in Microfinance – aggregates existing research findings to determine the dimensions of MFI performance, and study characteristics, that drive the confirmation of trade-offs. Specifically, after an initial screen of 3,299 articles, 623 empirical trade-off findings from 61 studies were coded into a dataset, where each empirical finding consists of a pairwise observation between a single financial performance variable and a single social performance variable. Using a probit model to analyze the direction and statistical significance across categories of social/financial performance and study artifacts, findings suggest that depth of outreach, cost of outreach, and efficiency indicators increase the prevalence of trade-offs, while risk indicators are associated with fewer trade-offs. Profitability indicators and outreach to women are found to have no significant effect on performance trade-offs. Study characteristics suggest that using an economic frontier methodology or publishing in development journals increases the incidence of trade-offs. These results help to understand the moderating factors that drive performance trade-offs and suggest that MFI managers and stakeholders may need to make difficult decisions regarding the social goals that may need to be sacrificed to achieve financial sustainability.Chapter 2 – Crowding-in without Crowding-out: Subsidy Design to Foster Commercialization – investigates the financial mechanisms that public and private donors have at their disposal and how they can use these instruments to attract fully commercial private capital to social enterprises. In this article, we first construct a typology to explain the ways in which private donors are complementing public donors in subsidy design. We argue that specific instruments such as corporate intangibles and credit guarantees can trigger permanent crowding-in effects that attract commercial partners, while preventing perverse effects such as crowding-out and soft budget constraints. Applying the typology and investment logics to the case of Compartamos, we observe that crowding-in and crowding-out effects can be present simultaneously, which allows us to suggest that subsidies and donations do not force path dependency towards commercialization but rather co-exist, for example attracting commercial debt investment while crowding-out commercial equity. Our research could help both private and public donors identify strategies to maximize social impact while reducing perverse mutual externalities. Finally, in the presence of performance trade-offs and donor pressures to commercialize operations and scale-up, Chapter 3 – What is an acceptable level of profit for a social enterprise? Insights from Microfinance – develops a conceptual framework for fair profits in social enterprise and then applies the framework to the microfinance industry. The fair profit framework is constructed on four dimensions: the level of profitability, the extent to which the organization adheres to its social mission, the pricing and the surplus distribution of the organization. Using a global sample of MFIs, our results suggest that satisfying all four dimensions is a difficult, although not impossible task as less than 3% of the sample fulfill all four criteria. Using our framework, we suggest that excessive profits in microfinance can be better understood relative to pricing, the social outreach of an organization, and the commitment to clients over time through reduced interest rates. This dissertation provides solid scientific evidence on the compatibility between financial and social returns in social finance. Our dissertation examines social finance through the lens of microfinance, and investigates the performance trade-offs facing MFIs as well as the moderating role of financing mechanisms to help MFIs fulfill their double-bottom-line mandate. We hope we demonstrate that the unique combination of financing technicalities significantly shape the evolution of recipient organizations. Some practical implications are also identified to help practitioners, regulators and managers navigate the ongoing debate on the compatibility of financial and social returns and the design of financial instruments for social enterprise. We firmly believe that these academic works contribute and bring new perspectives to social finance in development economics, and business ethics.