The debate about organizational purpose enlarged during last two decades as a consequence of different determinants such as the economic and financial crisis started in 2008, the increased attention of public opinion on environmental and social aspects of business, or the efforts of UN about sustainable development. Also, legal forms of business evolved to enlarge the institutional goals of for-profit organizations, for example, by introducing the figure of “benefit corporation” (società benefit) in Italian law. The increased attention to the so-called hybrid forms of business is not free from some theoretical and practical risks, first the disavowal of the tradition of Italian Economia Aziendale that affirmed the inseparable bond between economic and social goals into the purpose of each business based on the principle of the common good. The present paper starts from the theoretical background of Italian Economia Aziendale about the topic of the objectives of the business, and it aims to discuss the following research proposition: each business has a social significance linked to the purpose of common good, that actualizes itself in different aspects of management. To reach this goal, the paper discussed the international literature about hybrid organizations and adopted a qualitative research design. In detail, the authors perform a multiple case study composed of 22 businesses, different in legal forms and market approach. Data were collected by interviews, and content analysis of institutional documents, and the findings were discussed by adopting a framework derived from previous literature. The main results of the analysis confirmed the research proposition and highlighted some critical aspects of a business. First, the crucial role of the common good purpose emerged in the original historical goals of businesses that need a continuous actualization to adapt managerial choices to the environmental dynamics. Nonetheless, the development of practices requires the continuity of the original purpose. Second, the legal form is not a significant determinant to define the nature of organizational goals, but only a practical tool to reach these goals. Finally, the analysis of the multiple case study allowed to show how organizational and managerial practices are affected by the common good purpose, such as for how businesses interpret the concept of sustainability.
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