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An Evaluation of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) in Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SMEs): The Role of Moral Perspectives / Fern B. Davies

DOI (Published version): 10.23889/Suthesis.48317

Abstract

This research evaluates how corporate social responsibility (CSR) is constructed and practised in small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). The majority of extant research has been in large businesses, but an expanding body of CSR literature does acknowledge the distinct characteristics of SMEs, id...

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Published: 2018
Institution: Swansea University
Degree level: Doctoral
Degree name: Ph.D
URI: https://cronfa.swan.ac.uk/Record/cronfa48317
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Abstract: This research evaluates how corporate social responsibility (CSR) is constructed and practised in small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). The majority of extant research has been in large businesses, but an expanding body of CSR literature does acknowledge the distinct characteristics of SMEs, identifying ways to advance an appropriate research agenda. A significant strand of this literature calls to reclaim the moral foundations of CSR, following recognition that the concept has been constricted by economically rational justifications and a search for the business case. Consequently, a need is identified for practical and theoretical progressions that more accurately explain CSR in SMEs and address the subordination of morality. The following study responds to the calls above and aims to establish the role of two moral perspectives: moral proximity and the ethic of care. Their relevance is explored through an empirical analysis of Spence’s (2016) redrawn stakeholder theory and small business social responsibility (SBSR) pyramids. In order to do this, the research adopts a social constructionist perspective, drawing from the experiences of owner-managers through four exploratory focus groups and thirty in-depth interviews. To access a deeper comprehension of CSR, the research is not only framed by ethical theory, but builds on insights from the sociology of economic behaviour. A qualitative content analysis indicates that SMEs rarely justify their CSR engagement in rational economic terms. Motivations go far beyond the economic, with ethical and organisational perspectives most commonly represented. The research confirms that moral proximity and the ethic of care are relevant to accommodate the contextual, relational and dynamic nature of SMEs. These characteristics intensify ethical responsibility towards stakeholders, with both positive and negative implications that regardless, significantly shape the inception and engagement of CSR. From the findings, suggestions are made to enhance the redrawn theories and reiterate the value of these moral perspectives to inform our understanding of CSR in SMEs.
Item Description: A selection of third party content is redacted or is partially redacted from this thesis.
Keywords: corporate social responsibility, small and medium-sized businesses, ethic of care, moral proximity, business ethics, morality, economic rationality, Carroll's CSR pyramid, stakeholder theory
College: Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences