The ethics of entrepreneurial philanthropy

Charles Harvey, Jillian Gordon, Mairi Maclean

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Citations (SciVal)
209 Downloads (Pure)


A salient if under researched feature of the new age of global inequalities is the rise to prominence of entrepreneurial philanthropy, the pursuit of transformational social goals through philanthropic investment in projects animated by entrepreneurial principles. Super-wealthy entrepreneurs in this way extend their suzerainty from the domain of the economic to the domains of the social and political. We explore the ethics and ethical implications of entrepreneurial philanthropy through systematic comparison with what we call customary philanthropy, which preferences support for established institutions and social practices. We analyse the ethical statements made at interview by 24 elite UK philanthropists, 12 customary and 12 entrepreneurial, to reveal the coexistence of two ethically charged narratives of elite philanthropic motivations, each instrumental in maintaining the established socio-economic order. We conclude that entrepreneurial philanthropy, as an ostensibly efficacious instrument of social justice, is ethically flawed by its unremitting impulse toward ideological purity.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Business Ethics
Issue number33-49
Early online date2 Mar 2020
Publication statusPublished - 22 May 2021


  • Entrepreneurial philanthropy, ethics, inequality, neo-liberalism, philanthrocapitalism, rhetoric of motivations
  • Sustainability
  • Philanthropy


Dive into the research topics of 'The ethics of entrepreneurial philanthropy'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this