Can Small Business do CSR? An Investigation into the Awareness, Understanding and Application of Corporate Social Responsibility in Micro Business

By Paul Dexter.

Published by The Sustainability Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is an approach by which an entity recognises that its activities have wider consequences. It is how an organisation takes account of its economic, social and environmental impacts in the way that it conducts its business. During the past decade, CSR has dramatically increased its profile. It is now seen as a significant factor in business strategy. Most CSR attention is focused on large businesses, yet in the UK, there are over 4 million small independent businesses that employ less than 50 staff. These comprise of 99% of all UK businesses. Furthermore, the majority of smaller businesses are ‘micro’ businesses which employ less than 10 staff. These account for 95% of all UK businesses (BIS, 2009). Reviews of relevant literature have indicated a paucity of CSR research in this area. This research aims to redress this balance and offer some exploratory insights into very small (micro) business and their CSR policies and operations, i.e.: to identify and examine the extent of CSR awareness, understanding and activity in micro business. Two similar studies were undertaken (2007 and 2010) involving a sample from a wide range of Derbyshire (UK) micro businesses. The studies explored the extent of their wider business responsibilities to stakeholders and society. In addition, those factors or ‘drivers’ (Jenkins, 2010) that influence or are ‘perceived’ to influence good CSR business practice were also examined. The results from both studies indicated a conflict between fulfilment of the social obligations of business (Bowen, 1953; Meehan et al, 2006)) and the traditional Western model of wealth maximisation (Friedman, 1970). However, some fundamental CSR activities were widespread amongst ‘micro’ businesses when driven by cost, legislation or as a by-product of the ‘business case’. The 2010 studies from this research project confirmed the 2007 results, with no significant changes.

Keywords: Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), Business Strategy, UK Micro Business, Policy, Operation & Application, Conflict of Social Obligations

The International Journal of Environmental, Cultural, Economic and Social Sustainability, Volume 7, Issue 2, pp.429-446. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 842.309KB).

Paul Dexter

Programme Leader, Derbyshire Business School, University of Derby, Derby, Derbyshire, UK

I have a rich and varied background and professional career. I joined the University of Derby as a lecturer in 2001 following the sale of my Chartered Accountancy Practice that I had established in 1989. This was preceded by 30 years in various management and finance related roles within the private, public and voluntary sectors, which included a diverse range from small micro businesses through to international global organisations. I hold a professional accountancy qualification (FCA), together with a BA in Business Studies, a BSc in Geoscience and a MSc in Environmental Management. I am also a fellow of the Higher Education Academy (UK). I have taught most of the accountancy and finance disciplines, including my speciality- Audit & Assurance in my University Subject Group. I also teach business studies, strategic finance, business enterprise,professional ethics, governance, CSR and sustainability. My professional interests and personal research reflect my core areas of teaching, i.e. governance, CSR, environment and sustainability. In the past two years I have published two articles on CSR. I have also been co-author on several publications on business operations in the public sector in the past nine years.

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