Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 90, Issue 3, pp 437–452

Responsible Entrepreneurship in Developing Countries: Understanding the Realities and Complexities


DOI: 10.1007/s10551-009-0054-8

Cite this article as:
Azmat, F. & Samaratunge, R. J Bus Ethics (2009) 90: 437. doi:10.1007/s10551-009-0054-8


Developing countries have recently experienced a burgeoning of small-scale individual entrepreneurs (SIEs) – who range from petty traders to personal service workers like small street vendors, barbers and owners of small shops – as a result of market-based reforms, rapid urbanisation, unemployment, landlessness and poverty. While SIEs form a major part of the informal workforce in developing countries and contribute significantly to economic growth, their potential is being undermined when they engage in irresponsible and deceptive business practices such as overpricing, sale of underweight or substandard products, or attempts to hoard goods, to name a few. Despite the growing interest in corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives of small businesses in developing countries, the SIEs have received almost no attention. To address this void in the literature, we explore the reasons for the less than optimal level of social responsibility demonstrated by some SIEs in developing countries. We do so by drawing upon the existing literature to develop a comprehensive framework of social responsibility of SIEs highlighting their unique characteristics and the different contextual factors that they encounter in developing countries. Based on this framework, we then present a set of propositions specifying the influence of these contextual factors such as business environment, cultural traditions, socio-economic conditions, and both international and domestic pressures on the business practices of SIEs. The framework offers an explanation for the lack of responsible entrepreneurship of SIEs and has important implications for promoting sustainable business practices in developing countries where businesses are striving hard to survive and compete.

Key words

developing countriesresponsible entrepreneurshipsmall-scale individual entrepreneurssocial responsibility

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Deakin UniversityMelbourneAustralia
  2. 2.Monash UniversityMelbourneAustralia