Small Business Social Responsibility

Global Perspectives on Small Business Social Responsibility

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RATIONALE

Research on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) among small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) is highly warranted given that SMEs are looked to both generate economic growth and contribute to job creation, welfare and citizenship. However, research on CSR in emerging/developing countries and research on SMEs has tended to operate in silos.

On the one hand, academic literature on CSR among large internationalising companies from emerging markets has been developing. On the other hand, CSR in small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs, sometimes also called mSMES – micro, small and medium sized enterprises) in a largely European and developed country context has also been growing steadily. Yet there remains very little exchange between these literatures. Our purpose is to bring together the mainstream, developing country and SME CSR literatures into the same arena and create an environment for exchange and cross-learning between these sub-fields.

The contribution of CSR to human development and environmental protection in emerging and developing economies is potentially significant because the governments of those countries have frequently failed to enforce adequate social and environmental standards, and have not provided welfare in health, education and other basic social services. Thus, companies have been expected to fill this void by taking voluntary environmental measures in the absence of effective mandatory regulation or by engaging in developmental initiatives in health, education and poverty alleviation.

Research on SMEs is highly warranted given that the vast majority of companies in emerging and developing economies are SMEs, constituting 95% or more of private sector firms. It can be difficult to quantify the number and economic and social significance of SMEs in a developing country context, both because of problems in defining SMEs and distinguishing them from the sometimes flourishing informal economy. Nevertheless, it has been estimated that SMEs contribute almost half of employment and about a third of GDP in developing economies.

Until now, very few papers have been published on CSR among emerging and developing country SMEs and they have tended to focus on single country cases, particularly with a focus on China. There is little consideration of comparative dimensions or wider research implications. Importantly, the academic literature has failed to develop substantive theory and has neglected policy implications, most notably the role of appropriate governance frameworks for encouraging socially responsible behaviour among emerging and developing country SMEs.

Therefore, the main aims of the seminar series are:

  • to assess the current state of knowledge on CSR among emerging/developing country SMEs;
  • to re-examine the predictors, outcomes, moderators and mediators in the CSR-SME relationship;
  • to create an environment for effective exchange and cross-learning between different sub-fields on this topic;
  • to explore how the positive social and environmental impact of SMEs can be maximised.
Sierra Leonean SME provides equal opportunities for disabled people. Photo: Lauren McCarthy

Sierra Leonean SME provides equal opportunities for disabled people. Photo: Lauren McCarthy

"Baby Steps" of a socially responsible SME in the garment sector in Vietnam.  Photo: Angie Ngoc Tran

“Baby Steps” of a socially responsible SME in the garment sector in Vietnam. Photo: Angie Ngoc Tran