CSR, SMEs and Social Capital: An Empirical Study and Conceptual Reflection

David Murillo, Steen Vallentin

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    This paper is a response to the opening of new lines of research on CSR and SMEs (Thompson & Smith, 1991; Spence, 1999; Moore & Smith, 2006; Spence, 2007). It seeks to explore the business case for CSR in this corporate segment. The paper, which is based on four case studies of medium-sized firms in the automotive sector, took the distinctive approach of trying to understand the nature of CSR-like activities developed not by best-in-class CSR-driven companies but by purely competitiveness-driven firms. The case studies provide explicit evidence that the CSR activities of SMEs and the notion of social capital are interrelated, turning social capital into a powerful instrument to better explain what academic literature has called silent CSR practices. The analysis that follows questions some of the basic tenets that underpin the branch of business ethics that deals with the nature of SMEs' approach to CSR. Four basic concerns, which take the form of propositions for further research, serve as the basis for this analysis: a) A definition of CSR that includes most of the actions taken by all companies in the territory contributes no academic value to the discipline b) Any study of the motivation behind these CSR actions must reflect their essentially pragmatic nature. Actions are linked to social values but also, more importantly, to the nature of the competitive environment c) Business ethics must seek common ground with other more sociological disciplines if it is to explain the reasons behind this type of action d) Any study of this kind of practice requires a dual approach: a) normative when using tools developed by CSR; and b) descriptive and instrumental using the notion of social capital.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalRamon Llull Journal of Applied Ethics
    Issue number3
    Pages (from-to)17-46
    Publication statusPublished - Jun 2012

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