Corporate social responsibility in small-and medium-size enterprises: Investigating employee engagement in fair trade companies

Business Ethics, the Environment and Responsibility 19 (2):126-139 (2010)
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Employee buy-in is a key factor in ensuring small- and medium-size enterprise (SME) engagement with corporate social responsibility (CSR). In this exploratory study, we use participant observation and semi-structured interviews to investigate the way in which three fair trade SMEs utilise human resource management (and selection and socialisation in particular) to create employee engagement in a strong triple bottomline philosophy, while simultaneously coping with resource and size constraints. The conclusions suggest that there is a strong desire for, but tradeoff within these companies between selection of individuals who already identify with the triple bottomline philosophy and individuals with experience and capability to deal with mainstream brand management – two critical employee attributes that appear to be rarely found together. The more important the business experience to the organisation, the more effort the organisation must expend in formalising their socialisation programmes to ensure employee engagement. A key method in doing this is increasing employee knowledge of, and affection for, the target beneficiaries of the CSR programme (increased moral intensity).



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