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Department of Management

Dr Laura Colombo

Dr Laura Colombo

Senior Lecturer in Management Studies


 Stella Turk Building B046-022 Stella Turk Building


University of Exeter, Penryn Campus, Penryn, TR10 9FE


Laura Colombo is a Senior Lecturer in Management Studies at the University of Exeter Business School and Programme Director for BSc Business and Environment (Penryn). She is a graduate in Political Science from the University of Milan, holds an MSc in Social Economics from the University of Bologna and a PhD in Management Studies from the University of Exeter. 

She joined the School in 2014 as a visiting scholar, awarded a studentship from the University of Bologna, to research the discourse of eco-innovation in the European Union funding programmes Horizon 2020. In 2015, she was awarded a fully funded PhD scholarship from the University of Exeter Business School and joined the department of Management to research social agricultural cooperation practices in Italy, with a focus on approaches and processes of scaling.

Before joining Exeter University, she worked as a project developer for the European project “Hungry for Rights. Global Learning from Local Solutions in Alternative Food Systems”, on behalf of the NGO Mani Tese. Through participatory design and development of a non-formal peer education process, the project supported the creation of local multi-stakeholder platforms on Alternative Food System issues, amplifying their voices within the national and EU food agenda. Before that, she worked across Europe as a project designer, bidding on national and European funding schemes, building partnerships with NGOs, associations, cooperatives and environmentally motivated social enterprises.

Nationality: Italian


MSc Social Economics

PhD Management  


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Research interests

  • Social and co-operative entrepreneurship
  • Civic management education
  • Scaling strategies of social enterprise
  • Social and ecological innovation
  • Alternative food systems
  • Social farming
  • Environmental virtue ethics 

My research interests revolve around social entrepreneurship and its role in transforming relationships among people and with nature. Social enterprises – and particularly those which are environmentally motivated and cooperatively run – constitute the key focus of my research.

In this context, I’m particularly interested in understanding approaches and processes of scaling. While in the context of for-profit enterprises scaling is considered as a synonym for organisational growth, social enterprises consider scaling as a more complex matter, including processes of scaling up (e.g. organisational impact on policies), scaling out (e.g. organisational multiplication) and scaling deep (e.g. organisational impact on culture).

As part of my doctoral research, I have focused on the scaling processes of Social Agricultural Co-operatives in Italy, which are rapidly growing multi-stakeholder organisations, closely linked to social farming networks, solidarity purchasing groups, anti-mafia alliances and environmental justice movements.

My research also explores the ethical matrix of social enterprises, focusing on environmental virtue ethics as a philosophical approach that allows a redefinition of their traditional mission (e.g. from human to ecological promotion) as well as their vision (e.g. from human to ecological flourishing).

In relation to that, I am interested in Civic Management Education and its ‘praxis’. That is, reflection and action needed to reconfigure business schools around the pursuit of ecological flourishing, inclusive of human flourishing.

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Journal articles

Colombo LA, Moser C, Muehlfeld K, Joy S (2024). Sowing the Seeds of Change: Calling for a Social–Ecological Approach to Management Learning and Education. Academy of Management Learning & Education
Colombo LA (2023). Civilize the Business School: for a Civic Management Education. Academy of Management Learning & Education, 22(1), 132-149.
Colombo LA, Bailey AR, Gomes MVP (2023). Scaling in a post-growth era: Learning from Social Agricultural Cooperatives. Organization, 135050842211474-135050842211474. Abstract.
Sforzi J, Colombo LA (2020). New opportunities for work integration in rural areas: the 'social flavour' of craft beer in Italy. Sustainability (Switzerland), 12(16). Abstract.
Colombo LA, Pansera M, Owen R (2019). The discourse of eco-innovation in the European Union: an analysis of the Eco-Innovation Action Plan and Horizon 2020. Journal of Cleaner Production, 214, 653-665. Abstract.


Boehm S, Sandover R, Pascucci S, Colombo L, Jackson S, Lobley M (2022). Circular food systems: a blueprint for regenerative innovations in a regional UK context. In Sage CL (Ed) A Research Agenda for Food Systems, Edward Elgar.

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I care about education as an opportunity for students and teachers to engage with societal and environmental challenges. I approach it as a practice of 'educere', an empowering activity seeking to liberate our critical and creative thinking.

Since 2016, I have contributed to several initiatives within the University of Exeter as a lecturer, a tutor and a facilitator, introducing undergraduate and postgraduate students to understanding organisations from a sustainable and critical viewpoint (e.g. in the context of ‘Food for Thought’ Grand Challenge; Exeter Progression Programme; BEM2020 Organisational Behaviour, BEMM772 Hospitality Service Management; BEM2032 Startup Entrepreneurship; BEM1018 Business and Society; BEP1110 Environment, Society and Business; BEP2070 Social Enterprise Management).



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