A ‘business opportunity’ model of corporate social responsibility for small‐ and medium‐sized enterprises

Business Ethics, the Environment and Responsibility 18 (1):21-36 (2009)
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Abstract

In their book ‘Corporate Social Opportunity’, Grayson and Hodges maintain that ‘the driver for business success is entrepreneurialism, a competitive instinct and a willingness to look for innovation from non‐traditional areas such as those increasingly found within the corporate social responsibility agenda’. Such opportunities are described as ‘commercially viable activities which also advance environmental and social sustainability’. There are three dimensions to corporate social opportunity – innovation in products and services, serving unserved markets and building new business models. While small‐ and medium‐sized enterprises have traditionally been presented as non‐entrepreneurial in this area, this paper demonstrates how SMEs can take advantage of the opportunities presented by CSR. Using data from 24 detailed case studies of UK SMEs from a range of sectors, the paper explores the numerous CSR opportunities that present themselves to SMEs, such as developing innovative products and services and exploiting niche markets. There are inevitable challenges for SMEs undertaking CSR, but by their very nature they have many characteristics that can aid the adoption of CSR; the paper explores these characteristics and how the utilisation of positive qualities will help SMEs make the most of CSOs. Integrating CSR into the core of a company is crucial to its success. Using the case studies to illustrate key points, the paper suggests how CSR can be built into a company's systems and become ‘just the way we do things’. There are a number of factors that characterise the CSO ‘mentality’ in an organisation, and Grayson and Hodges's book describes seven steps that will move a company in the direction of a ‘want to do’ CSO mentality. This paper adapts these steps for SMEs, and by transferring and building on knowledge from the 24 detailed case studies, it develops a ‘business opportunity’ model of CSR for SMEs.

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