Small Business Champions for Corporate Social Responsibility

Journal of Business Ethics 67 (3):241-256 (2006)
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Abstract

While Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) has traditionally been the domain of the corporate sector, recognition of the growing significance of the Small and Medium Sized Enterprise (SME) sector has led to an emphasis on their social and environmental impact, illustrated by an increasing number of initiatives aimed at engaging SMEs in the CSR agenda. CSR has been well researched in large companies, but SMEs have received less attention in this area. This paper presents the findings from a U.K. wide study of socially responsible SMEs. The 24 companies studied were chosen as “exemplars” of␣CSR in SMEs. The aim of this study therefore is to progress understanding of both the limitations on and opportunities for CSR in SMEs through the exploration of exemplary characteristics in the study companies. Key areas of investigation were CSR terminology, the influence of managerial values, the nature of SME CSR activities, motivation for and benefits from engaging in CSR, and the challenges faced. The results of this study demonstrate some of the exemplary goals and principles needed to achieve social responsibility in SMEs, and begin to provide knowledge that could be used to engender learning in other SMEs. In particular, there is evidence that stakeholder theory may provide a framework in which SMEs and CSR can be understood. SMEs prefer to learn through networking and from their peers, so this is a possible avenue for greater SME engagement in CSR. This would require strong leadership or “championing” from individuals such as highly motivated owner–managers and from exemplary companies as a whole.

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