Organising Corporate Social Responsibility : The Case of Employee Involvement at Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises

Abstract: Businesses often refer to Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) when asked about their responsibilities toward society. In this view, CSR includes social, environmental, and economic responsibilities, of which the latter is prevalently prioritised. The larger the organisation, the greater public scrutiny and external pressure exist to affect and control such tasks. It remains vague, however, how small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) navigate their responsibilities since these are less visible to the public eye. Hence, it may not be surprising that the literature about CSR in SMEs is fragmented and prevalently refers to two extremes: SMEs as forward-thinking actors or SMEs as lacking CSR. This thesis sheds light upon how SMEs organise CSR by endorsing organising as a process of social construction and, thereby, focusing upon micro-foundations of CSR. This unveils specific organising mechanisms on the individual level (i.e. the employee) and on the organisational level (i.e. the SME). Based upon three case studies in the Swedish apparel industry, it is determined that organising CSR is not necessarily dictated by the owner-manager’s ideas and ideals; instead, employees are the ones who propel CSR. These employees exhibit moral motives for CSR as well as demonstrate entrepreneurial spirit by instrumentalising SME peculiarities and, therewith, contribute to shaping their organisational environments’ social and environmental responsibilities